Sunday, January 16, 2022

Legalizing prostitution isn’t a bad idea

Some people may consider this debate to be sexist or immoral but for how long are we going to bury our heads in the sand over the issue of prostitution?

Mention the word ‘prostitution’ and everyone around you thinks immorality. They will stare at you as if you have just released foul air. Perhaps the stigma attached to prostitution could be traced to how societies, especially in Africa, treat issues relating to sex. Africans tend to attach sin to sex. Issues of sex remain a taboo in many African societies. This is despite the fact that human beings owe their existence to the act of sex. It baffles me why people continue to view sex as an act of immorality. Sex was duly sanctioned by Jesus Christ (who has many followers globally), when he declared, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (first chapter, Genesis)”.

Fact: All creatures love sex, with humankind possessing the hugest appetite. Sex brings both happiness and sorrow to human beings. What is the justification for polygamy? Why do we have so many cases of promiscuity? It is all because of our love for sex.

Calls for the legalization of prostitution attract many moral and religious arguments. I caution that for us to approach this topic with sober and open minds, we first need to acknowledge that prostitution has always been there, is still here and will not disappear anywhere, anytime soon. Ignoring or getting nauseous at the mention of prostitution will not evaporate it. Our disdain for prostitutes will not drive them away from the streets. If we all agree that women will continue to use their bodies as a means to generate money for their livelihood, why are we reluctant in accepting the situation?

Prostitution happens every day, directly and/or indirectly. Sex workers on the streets are blatantly straight forward about their expectation of receiving remuneration for sex. That is direct prostitution. Women that are picked for ‘one night stands’ at bars, night clubs, churches (all night prayers), funerals(night vigils) and parties(bridal and stags) are no different from prostitutes. These are women who most of the times expect something in return after they “deliver”. It could be that airtime, Nandos or gas cylinder. They too are selling their bodies, albeit indirectly. Let’s face it. When a woman meets a stranger and ‘sleeps’ with him, even before any emotional attachments are established, but only because some favour is expected from this man after sex, that qualifies for prostitution. So, prostitution happens even where it is not explicitly outlined.

Men go all out to ‘buy’ women for sexual pleasure and this explains why even married men still spend money and time on ‘small houses’ whose only role is to satisfy their libido. Men are driven to women by lust before love can take over. Don’t be fooled. There is no such thing as love at first sight. You lust and then you may love and hopefully last. Direct prostitutes are there to take care of the man’s lust with no intentions to develop love. By discouraging prostitution, government leaves men who would have only wanted to satisfy their lust with no choice but to opt for indirect prostitutes who end up breaking marriages as they expect love in return. Chances of falling in love with a direct prostitute that you only engage with for a session that lasts no more than ten minutes are very slim. A married man will not have time to be driven crazy by a direct prostitute to a point of neglecting his wife, unlike in the case of indirect prostitutes who try by all means to out-stage the incumbent wife.

Look; the Courts of Law are inundated with cases of divorce. The majority of these divorces are a result of infidelity on the part of the other partner. In most cases, the divorcing partner wants out of the marriage because the other partner has been unfaithful, or to be blunt, the partner has a sex partner outside marriage. It is also worth noting that in most cases, your partner does not necessarily cheat on you because they don’t love you. They only want to experiment something different. The problem is, partners find it difficult to discuss issues of sex. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any need to experiment outside the matrimonial bedroom. Instead of you telling your partner how you want to explore other sexual gratification routes, you opt to hop from one bed to the other when you could have tried it all with your partner.

This is why we have cases of people being caught red handed with their concubines in their matrimonial bedrooms. This is why we have married men ‘experimenting’ with their house helpers. Because they can’t tell their partners that they want to explore other avenues of having sex, and because there are no legal places to find direct prostitutes, men turn their secretaries and maids into their prostitutes. I therefore believe that if prostitution was legalized and regulated, many marriages would be saved and many women would be saved from the sexual exploitation they suffer at the hands of their employers. Instead of exploiting their employees who more often give in to these sexual demands for fear of victimization and loss of employment, ‘bosses’ would visit brothels to satisfy their short term sexual needs. The good thing about prostitutes is, they don’t attach any emotions to your relationship or encounter with them.

Unlike, say, your secretary, prostitutes do not have sex with you with the intention to wreck your marriage. They harbour no intentions to become your next wife. They do not compete with your wife and will not be bothered whether you are married or not because, really, that is none of their business. Prostitutes will never send you a text message in the middle of the night or a ‘call me back’ which can bring a fight between you and your wife, spouse or girlfriend. Let’s face reality. A majority of men are not known to stick to one sexual partner. Legalizing prostitution will therefore help avert the situation of men having to rely on indirect prostitutes (small houses) who end up breaking marriages.

Direct prostitutes do not need to be taken to movies or taken out on dates at expensive restaurants. Direct prostitutes who ply their trade at brothels do not derive pleasure in being seen flossing in your flashy car putting you at risk of getting spotted by your wife or spouse. You find her at a brothel and leave her there. Instead of trying to find a ‘small house’, who in most cases end up bringing tensions and fights amongst couples, a partner who chooses the services of a prostitute is highly likely to be at peace with his wife at home because with prostitutes, what happens at the brothel ends at the brothel. Your wife will never find a cashier’s slip showing that you have bought groceries that never reached the matrimonial house.

Speaking at the opening of the 2011 legal year in Lobatse, Botswana’s Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo revealed that “in 2009 alone, 971 divorce cases were registered with the High Court, while the number stood at 1 172 in 2010.”- (Southern Times online). Even though I do not have any research to back my assertion, I can confidently say the bulk of those divorces are a result of infidelity. Married men opt for ‘small houses’ who end up being visible to their wives whereas prostitutes will never make any extra demands that could reveal any signs of infidelity to your wife. They don’t call you, instead you call them. They don’t visit you, instead you visit them.

Legalizing and regulating prostitution will ensure safety of both the prostitutes and their customers. Lessons could be drawn from Senegal where prostitution is legal and regulated. In Senegal, prostitutes must be at least 21 years of age, be registered with the police, must carry a valid sanitary card and test negative for sexually transmitted infections. Prostitutes just need education on the dangers of unprotected sex. For example, in my interview recently with one of the prostitutes in South Africa, she revealed that they take the initiative to be the ones unwrapping and putting the condom on their clients just to make sure the customer does not fiddle with the condom. The lady said she does not allow her customers to ‘hit’ her from ‘behind’ because she wants to be sure the condom is worn and the customer does not remove it during the session.

Prostitution is illegal in many African states but it continues to be practiced nonetheless. Take the case of our country, Botswana. Even though we claim prostitution is illegal, we do not have statutory laws that explicitly outlaw prostitution. This explains why you will never hear of a case where women found waiting for prospective customers being charged with prostitution. Instead they get slapped with a silly charge of idling. The reason is, unlike rape, sex that happens through prostitution is consensual and takes place in private places that are out of bounds to the police.
The benefits of legalized and regulated sex can be found in that the police will be left to respond to more important crimes instead of chasing after skimpily dressed women. The justice system will be spared nuisance cases like idling. Prostitutes will be protected and not exploited as is the case right now where men sleep with women and refuse to pay, with the knowledge prostitutes are not protected by the laws of the country.

Currently there is no hygiene in prostitution but if they had a fully recognized place of operation, like the red light streets of Amsterdam, health officials would be free to conduct regular inspections. Right now prostitutes are picked from the streets and after being bonked on car bonnets and back seats of cars, they return to their pick up spots without taking a bath. If we regularized prostitution, these ladies would have decent apartments fully fitted with showers for use after ‘use‘. There is no correlation between prostitution and the spread of HIV/AIDS even though critics like to raise this point. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands yet the country does not suffer from an HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Government can make loads of money through this industry. The demand for sex workers is alarmingly high and if we think outside the box and were not a nation still trapped in denial, this industry would bring in a lot of money through tax. In the build up to the 2010 soccer world cup in South Africa, ANC MP, George Lekgetho presented a motion that sought to legalize prostitution in South Africa. He is quoted in the online edition of Soccer Lens as having said, “If sex working is legalized people would not do things in the dark. That would bring us tax and would improve the lives of those who are not working”. He went on to observe, “Theoretically so long as it’s legal, it will be easy to licence, regulate and tax. It would provide money for the country, establish some guidelines and safety precautions for the workers and their patrons, and generally allow the prostitutes more organizational capabilities, providing more safety and empowerment.”

Calls for the legalization of prostitution in South Africa were first made by the then South African Police Commissioner, Jackie Selebi. In Swaziland, the AIDS Support Organization has recommended that prostitution be legalized, in order to allow it to be regulated. Come to think of it, Swaziland allows polygamy yet they claim not to support prostitution. What the King ought to know is, those many young girls who parade at the reed dance with the hope of being picked as wives, only do so because of the material gains that come with being the King’s wife. They do not necessarily love him. They love the material rewards that accompany the wedding band and sleeping with the King. That is indirect prostitution.

Prostitution happens between two consenting adults and as such I do not understand what business it is for any government to poke its nose in what happens between a private seller and a volunteer buyer. I know for a fact that our traditional leaders are against prostitution. What surprises me though is, even as they feel prostitution is a form of sexual abuse on ladies, the same leaders are of the view there can never be rape in a marriage. What they fail to grasp is, better is a woman who volunteers sex for money than the one forced into sex just because a man has paid lobola (dowry) for her. If paying dowry for a woman guarantees sex at any time then the role of a wife is akin to being a prostitute. Is that what traditionalists are implying?

Religious groups will argue that prostitution goes against the teachings of the Bible and so forth. Well, Jesus Christ couldn’t stop prostitution and so who are we to even attempt. Christians will be shocked to learn that Israel, the historical stage for the Bible, allows prostitution. As for Catholics they better not make any noise because prostitution is far much better than the pedophilia practiced by their priests. It is pardonable to pay an adult for sex than coerce an underage boy into it.

Prohibition and wishing away of prostitution will not bring an end to the practice. Prostitutes, just like ‘decent’ women, do have children and bills to take care of. We allow boxers to make money through their fists. We have no problem with Amantle Montsho making money through her sprinting legs. We celebrate with Emma Warues when she conquers the world through her beautiful face. Why then can’t we allow prostitutes to make money through that part of their anatomy? Let us be honest to ourselves. Prostitution is here to stay. We did not invent it and we will never be able to stop it. Instead of criticizing it, let’s legalize it.

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