This research paper discusses the many issues and nuances related to prostitution and is divided into five sections. In the first section, a definition of prostitution is provided, and acts that are commonly construed as prostitution are listed. At the outset, it must be noted that there is no one accepted definition of prostitution, and the term is fraught with ideological debates. Prostitution has also had different meanings across different time periods and locations, and the understanding of prostitution continually evolves.
The second section provides a brief background of prostitution. The prevalence of this activity is discussed, as well as a brief historical backdrop of it being “the oldest profession.” The section distinguishes among the different types of prostitution in terms of modus operandi (that is, street versus in-house and other forms). This is followed by a brief discussion of more recent trends linking prostitution in the era of globalization with the dynamics of global sex trade, tourism, and the trafficking of humans for sex purposes.
In the third and fourth sections, the causes and effects of prostitution are discussed, respectively. This comprises the bulk of the research paper. Again, it should be noted at the outset that depending upon ideological perspectives (i.e., whether one views prostitution as deviant, as a legitimate form of work, or as a form of violence that ranks among human rights issues), there are competing versions of the prevalence of prostitution and the nature of its effects. It will be noted that differences in how scholars view prostitution will possibly explain the differences and perspectives seen in research findings.
The fifth section discusses competing views on policies and perspectives to address prostitution that have evolved through the years. For most countries and for most of the modern age, prostitution has been seen as a form of deviance, and many countries have had criminal and civil laws against prostitution. However, this dominant view has been challenged, and in a few developed countries, there have been attempts to decriminalize or legalize prostitution. This will be elaborated more thoroughly in this section. The paper concludes by evaluating the efficacy of some current policies used to alleviate or moderate the potential harmful effects of prostitution, such as the spread of diseases.