Every country in the world has prostitution, the longest running profession. The only difference within prostitution is the legal status surrounding it. For example, The United States where prostitution is illegal, with the sole exception of Nevada, has had a long running taboo of prostitution. Despite this, according to the Bureau of Justice statistics in 2010 there were over sixty thousand arrested for prostitution, a crime which there should not be a victim but because of a long withstanding taboo there are many victims.
Perhaps I should clarify; prostitution does have a victim if it is not legalized and regulated. There are many pimps who create illegal businesses using prostitutes, who are often under aged and forced to work or face severe consequences, therefore mitigating consent. These pimps run an underground empire of sorts, in which they profit off the suffering of others for their own gain. While law enforcement does attempt to go after these pimps it seems as though more often that clients and the prostitutes themselves are arrested. So forget the argument that criminalizing prostitution stops it, even if it were truly such a societal sin.
Philosophers such as John Stuart Mill recognized this, and believed that the government should not, and cannot legislate morals. He ultimately believed that no one should be forcibly prevented from acting in any way he chooses provided his acts are not invasive of the free acts of others. Prostitution is just this, it is not invasive on an individual's freedom for if it is truly consensual there is no harm, as people are going to use prostitutes either way. We cannot legislate morality, we can only protect liberty through laws, good laws that will protect the interests of the many.
In an economic downturn many young women and men turn to prostitution in an attempt to earn some money. While few people wish to turn to prostitution as their primary methods of achieving financial success, there are many who need to have jobs. If we were to give prostitutes employment rights, and require all prostitutes to take regular health exams it would actually reduce the burden to the government. While it is quite difficult to estimate the amount of money that the police force, public defenders, and the judicial system spend in attempting to prosecute prostitutes, the money could be far better spent on pursuing health care for prostitutes.
In eight European countries (Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, Hungary and Latvia), prostitution is legal and regulated. Instead of spending money on criminal enforcement for prostitution the government focuses on health care for the prostitutes, and going after underage prostitution. While one can certainly make the argument that there is still human trafficking in these countries (particularly Netherlands), there is far less than in The United States. Legal prostitutes in The Netherlands receive health care and union rights, and those who attempt to run illegal businesses or brothels are prosecuted as they should be.
Much of the American public is against legalizing prostitution according to recent polling. According to a Yougov poll taken in 2011, 48 percent percent of respondents were against prostitution, and 38 percent were for legalization with 13 percent undecided. Despite these poll numbers clearly showing that much of the American public was against legalizing prostitution there is no benefit in legislating morality. We can gain nothing from it, and if it is truly consensual what is the harm? We cannot ban something because we view it as morally heinous if both parties involved are consenting, and the government like many issues cannot successfully legislate morals.