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East Asian countries, where prostitution has been a cultural norm, currently range from fully legal prostitution (e.g. Thailand and Taiwan) to illegal with varying degrees of tolerance and “rules for breaking the rules” (e.g. Japan, South Korea, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, etc). Japan and South Korea nominally criminalized prostitution under pressure from the west, making it an underground – but de facto mainstream – industry.
Laws against prostitution in PRC and Hong Kong are legacies of the Maoist era and British colonial rule – two greatly injust legislative traditions. Where it is decriminalised, it is a far safer profession for those who choose to enter it, because of the addition of police protection, regular testing for HIV and other STIs, and the ability to screen clients or for sex workers to work in groups. Most, if not all, legal regimes decriminalizing or partially legalizing the practice heavily restrict or prohibit independent sex work, since the point behind legalization – as with drugs – is not to open up more to criminal operation of the profession, but to outcompete it with a much safer, regulated alternative.
Historically, religion and prostitution have often been intertwined, with church-run brothels being common in many areas up until only a few hundred years ago.   Presently, however, it is considered a sin by a number of religions – particularly the three desert dogmas – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Because of this, the practice has been relegated to an often illegal – and therefore dangerous – underground profession.
Considering the fact that, regardless of the boons of legalized prostitution, much prostitution worldwide is still operated in connection with the local criminal underworld (with all the drugs and violence that inherently brings), and with young men and women being duped or forced into the profession, the current state of prostitution in many places is a human rights atrocity. And just like with the war on drugs, legalization is the only approach that actually champions harm reduction approaches to the benefit of the fellow human beings involved, often worse off without it.
There are a number of prostitutes who are not in the occupation by choice, either because of forced prostitution , societal pressure, or poverty. Surveys conducted by Melissa Farley  and Louise I. Gerdes  indicate that up to 88% of prostitutes wish to leave the profession, but lack the means to do so. Other studies indicate that prostitutes generally enjoy their line of work and have entered the industry voluntarily.  Criminalization has led to the rise of thug pimps and organized crime in the industry. In the early 20th Century, madams and other brothel operators became dependent on organized crime connections for legal protection. The mob’s influence wasn’t all bad; the goombas had a code of chivalry and set standards that kept the pimps in line. The postwar turn away from prostitution by the mob in the wake of Tom Dewey’s prosecutions (Lucky Luciano et al.) opened an extremely nasty “wild west” era in prostitution dominated by thug pimps, that reverberates to this day. Already at great risk of STDs, illegality exacerbates this risk greatly, while the risk of rape is also increased.  Mere criminalization (in contrast to actual legalization) as implemented in the “Swedish model” – in which selling sex is legal but buying it (and connecting sex worker with customer) is illegal – leads to increased dangers for sex workers.  Sex workers are often harassed by the police  as well as members of the general public,  a result of the overwhelming bigotry and stigma directed towards sex workers, combined with the withdrawal of police protection of the sex workers that results from the illegality of the profession. Many sex workers (especially in poor areas with limited or corrupt law enforcement, or in areas where prostitution is effectively or de jure illegal) live as virtual slaves to their pimps, and have often been brought into the business against their will or under false pretenses, in violation of informed consent – abandoned in an unregulated industry left to be operated by criminals, tend to wind up practically being slaves in the places where prostitution is illegal, as a result of said illegality. In countries or jurisdictions where prostitution is illegal, reporting abuse and rape is difficult (if not impossible), as police may arrest prostitutes more readily than the people who assaulted them – one of many situations where illegality causes society to shun the very sex workers that can’t protect themselves. It is reported that two thirds of prostitutes suffer from PTSD. The trauma appears intrinsic, as this true even when violence is not a factor.  If this is because people go into prostitution untraumatized and get traumatized, or if traumatized people seek out prostitution still appears to vary from case to case, however. Countries where prostitution is legal have higher human trafficking inflows. 
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