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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 April 28; 334(7599): 863.
PMCID: PMC1857755
Stigmatising Sex Workers

For debate: Should prostitution be legalised and regulated?

The BMA's annual public health conference is an opportunity for doctors to air public health issues and debate them, to challenge each other and establish what is known and what is not known.1 The specialty of public health takes evidence based medicine at least as seriously as other specialties, but from time to time it is important to free oneself from its fetters.

On 29 March a motion was put forward from the West Midlands region (that I drew up): “That this conference believes that the key to prevention of sexually transmitted disease is two-fold: (i) school based education that ensures that all children understand the risks associated with unprotected sexual intercourse before they become sexually active, and (ii) the legalisation and regulation of prostitution.” The first part of the motion was accepted by the conference. The second part was taken “as reference”: a polite way of saying, go back and work on this more.

The BMA press office issued a press release ahead of the conference to excite press interest.1 I believe it included reference to part (ii) of the motion, which I would not have endorsed.

My reason for submitting the motion seems to have served its primary purpose: to open up some debate. I urge colleagues to consider that it is as important to think about the “big picture” of what is going on in our society as well as what is going on in any specialty.

Certainly that is what we believe we have to do in public health. The question is, should prostitution be legalised and regulated? It is an honest question.


Competing interests: None declared.


1. Day M. BMA public health doctor is accused of stigmatising sex workers. BMJ 2007;334:767 (14 April.) doi: 10.1136/bmj.39181.578229.BE

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