The very first step in dealing with a problem is acknowledging that it exists. This is exactly the problem that Egypt faces when it comes to prostitution and the sex worker industry. As a result of Egypt’s social conservativeness, discussion of the general topic of prostitution is often ignored or looked down upon when even brought up. This is not only the way society views the illicit industry, but it is also the way the government does, which opens the door for a barrage of problems that actually do all the damage associated with prostitution.
For starters, it needs to be understood that the mere existence of any illicit and unregulated industry will result in much more damage to a country than if the very same industry were regulated, regardless of whether said industry is prostitution or the illicit dealing and distribution of cheeseburgers. This lack of regulation allows the people involved in the industry to find new and illicit ways to increase profit and satisfy greed, and these ways almost always are harmful to at least a certain party involved, which is exactly the case with prostitution.
Let’s look at the damages that unregulated prostitution causes. For starters, sex workers are entitled to absolutely no rights when it comes to the industry, due to the fact that a sex worker can be subjected to inhumane amounts of violence for a variety of reasons, and does not have any legal industry to rely on for protection because what he/she is doing is considered illegal to begin with. Then you have the fact that unregulated sex work increases the chance of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs and STIs), for both the customer and the sex worker. Digging even deeper, you can notice that prostitution is often associated with other illicit activities such as drug dealing, in the sense that many sex workers are often under the influence of drugs during work, sometimes by force, or work for “pimps” who also dabble in the drug industry. Unregulated prostitution also opens the door for the industry to attract children and minors who have not even reached the age of 18.
From an economic perspective, the unregulated prostitution industry in Egypt pumps lumps of money into the hidden economy, which are not accounted for in the nation’s official economic statistics, nor are they taxed. This industry also forces many people into prison; these people then consume tax money in prison for the food they eat, the water they drink and the space they occupy. This is all money that can be used for the development and bettering of the Egyptian standard of living.
The argument against legalizing prostitution, meanwhile, is that, religion – whether Islam or Christianity – prohibits adultery. Even if we were to overlook religion, social standards in Egypt consider adultery, especially prostitution, a taboo of epic proportions. I am completely in agreement with the fact that adultery and prostitution are religiously prohibited; I am not claiming that they aren’t but the reality we face in our country is that this industry exists, and it causes much more damage unregulated than it would if it were regulated.
Legalizing prostitution would take the following form: To begin with, official, recognized and legally regulated brothels would be established, with management directly from the Ministry of Interior. This management would make sure that the sex workers are of age and voluntarily work in the brothels and are not forced or coerced by anyone to do so. Security measures would also be in place to protect sex workers from violent customers. The sex workers would also have to submit to periodic STD tests, to ensure their own safety and that of customers. Each brothel would be taxed and would submit to annual investigations and reviews like every institution in the country. The brothel industry would also be owned by the government to avoid the privatization of the industry, which may lead to the same problems that resulted from a lack of regulation.
Legalizing sex work would also decrease the number of sexually-encouraged crimes, such as rape or harassment, an epidemic that the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality reports that 99.3 percent of Egyptian woman have been subjected to, due to the fact that men would now be able to legally satisfy their urges without harassing or sexually insulting others.
The legalization and regulation of sex work, though, does not mean giving the green light to pimps and sex traffickers to do as they please but would actually allow the government to crack down on prostitution that is not regulated, that still denies sex workers their rights and puts all involved parties in danger. Giving the industry a chance to legally exist under regulations would give the government the justification to harshen consequences for those who still choose to do it illicitly.
Now there are some who may argue that the government should just crack down on the entire industry and terminate it without going through the process of legalizing or regulating it. This makes sense, until you realize seconds later that sex is a natural urge, which creates a natural demand, and for every demand, a supplier will always appear to make money off of it.
The reality is that the industry is always going to exist and if the government wants to curb the damage it makes and maybe eventually terminate it, then it should legalize it, because putting down a mad dog on a leash is much easier than killing a mad dog that’s on the loose.