Those in society who are the most vulnerable are the ones who are most likely to enter into prostitution. The prostitution industry perpetuates race- and class-based inequalities. The involvement of so many disadvantaged people in prostitution obscures the exploitation and lack of choice that is often involved.
As Catharine MacKinnon points out, "if prostitution is a free choice, why are the women with the least choices most often found doing it?"
Finances are a significant driver of women into prostitution. This means, naturally, that working class women are more likely to enter into prostitution. Sex workers are often homeless, have mental health problems or are addicted to drugs.
Entering into and staying in prostitution is not a choice, but a matter of economic survival or a reaction to a difficult circumstance.
Migrants often make up a significant proportion of sex workers (roughly 37 per cent in the UK).
This is a particularly vulnerable population whose marginalisation is exploited by the prostitution industry. Migrants may not have support systems in the country they have immigrated to, be unable to speak English or be under additional pressure to send money back to their families in their home countries. Migrant sex workers are also especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation due to their immigration status which is often precarious.
Decriminalisation of prostitution makes sex work seem like a viable choice to migrants, which can lead to significant harms.
With regards to race, a disproportionate amount of women of colour enter into prostitution.
Already marginalised with less opportunities than their white counterparts, their marginalisation is compounded through this. People of colour who enter into prostitution are often heavily fetishised and stereotyped, separating them further from any sense of personhood.
For instance, a study of online advertisements for Asian sex workers conducted by the Asian Women for Equality Society found that 90 per cent of advertisements portrayed Asian women as "submissive, exotic, newly immigrated, fresh off the boat, young and inexperienced".
People of colour have long suffered sexual exploitation at the hands of white people, as well as their existing marginalisation.
By allowing a system in which white men are able to buy and abuse women of colour, we are perpetuating a paradigm of racism and colonialism.
The overwhelming amount of sex workers that come from marginalised populations should signal that it is not a viable or free choice. Society has a responsibility to curb prostitution as much as possible, to prevent these marginalised populations from worsening their circumstances.