Get real


The supreme court recommendation that the government consider legalising prostitution if it is unable to curb it has kicked up a storm. Some are opposing it as it amounts to providing legal sanction to violence against and exploitation of women. It is feared that legalising prostitution will also provide a fillip to trafficking of women, especially minors. Indeed prostitution is exploitation. Ideally, it should be done away with. Women shouldn’t have to sell their bodies to earn a living. But ending prostitution has not been possible. Brothels and pimping are illegal. Yet they exist. In the circumstances, legalising it might be a better idea, as it could reduce the plight of sex workers.

Bringing the sex trade above ground will remove it from the darkness and secrecy that currently shrouds the trade, enabling pimps and brothel owners to subject sex workers to terrible violence and exploitation. It is important that while legalising prostitution, the government must delink sex work from trafficking and provide for strong action against the latter. At present they are at the mercy of police, pimps and clients. Legalising prostitution will enable them to negotiate from a position of strength rather than be subject to exploitation as has been the case so far. It will help curb the spread of HIV-AIDS as health workers will be able to access and treat sex workers and their clients more easily. The experience of Brazil and South Africa is instructive. Brazil legalised prostitution and today its HIV-AIDS programme, which uses sex workers to hand out condoms, is among the most successful in the world. This is not the case with South Africa, where prostitution is illegal. South Africa today is the world’s HIV capital.

The government must take the apex court suggestion seriously and act to initiate legislation in parliament. There are 2.5 million sex workers in the country, 30 per cent of whom are children. This is not a small number. Most of them would not have chosen to enter the profession but were forced to do so. Vested interests, including the police, ensure that they cannot get out. The least we can do is to improve their lives. The government however must be careful while crafting the law. Loopholes in legislation could worsen the plight of the sex workers.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry