Emily F. Rothman
AMA Journal of Ethics. January 2017, Volume 19, Number 1: 110-121.
According to the World Health Organization, “commercial sex” is the exchange of money or goods for sexual services, and this term can be applied to both consensual and nonconsensual exchanges. Some nonconsensual exchanges qualify as human trafficking. Whether the form of commercial sex that is also known as prostitution should be decriminalized is being debated contentiously around the world, in part because the percentage of commercial sex exchanges that are consensual as opposed to nonconsensual, or trafficked, is unknown. This paper explores the question of decriminalization of commercial sex with reference to the bioethical principles of beneficence, nonmaleficence, and respect for autonomy. It concludes that though there is no perfect policy solution to the various ethical problems associated with commercial sex that can arise under either criminalized or decriminalized conditions, the Nordic model offers several potential advantages. This model criminalizes the buying of sex and third-party brokering of sex (i.e., pimping) but exempts sex sellers (i.e., prostitutes, sex workers) from criminal penalties. However, ongoing support for this type of policy should be contingent upon positive results over time.
The article is here.