Monday, November 21, 2011

Legalising Prostitution in Botswana

Recently the issue of legalising prostitution in Botswana has come to the fore. It seems very odd to me that people feel it's important to legalise prostitution but are not willing to make abortions legal. The prisons are full of women who had no option but to seek an illegal abortion. But yet they speak about women's rights.

I am not for the legalisation of prostitution. I think instead, the prostitute side of prostitution should be decriminalised. Why should people forced into such work because of the economic situation and structural discrimination be put in jail? I'm not against the legalisation of prostitution from some moralistic Christian perspective, it is from a feminist perspective that I take this position.

In Botswana I just cannot accept that prostitution is an occupation that women are willingly choosing. With our high level of unemployment and poverty women (primarily but even men) are forced to sell all they have left- their bodies. I also wonder in this debate- where are the women? Why is it the men who are speaking for the legalisation of prostitution?

The debate stems from attempts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country. I think we can do that by decriminalising prostitution so that women can come forward without the fear of being arrested. At the same time the legal apparatus should now focus on the men that buy these women and the pimps involved in organising them. Pressure should be put on them with arrests.

Many of the prostitutes in Botswana are foreigners. I can't find any statistics about sex trafficking in the country but I would expect it is there.

Legalisation will increase the sex business in Botswana and make it a magnet for people looking for prostitutes. In Norway once prostitution was legalised it increased by 25%. And now since most Norwegian women (who have access to better jobs) don't want to be prostitutes, the big sex work lobby groups are pushing for foreign women to be allowed into the country to fill the vacancies. This is a recipe for the trafficking of women, sadly done legally.

The best way to help women in prostitution is to offer them good alternatives. Prostitution in most cases is the only choice. If there comes a point, where the problems of poverty and sexual abuse in Botswana were magically solved, when everyone who wanted a job that earned them a living wage got one, then and only then would it be right to legalise prostitution. Until then any attempt to legalise prostitution would be one that instead legalised the continued abuse of women and that's wrong.

What do you think? What's the best way to deal with prostitution in a country with high levels of unemployment and poverty? I'm interested in hearing your view.


OneStonedCrow said...

Hey Laurie - interesting thoughts on a subject I haven't given much thought to ...

... I have mixed feelings on the issue of legalization because the bottom line is that, lawful or unlawful, prostitution has been around forever and it will be in the future ... what I'm trying to say is that perhaps more control will offer more protection to the vulnerable ...

... I don't know, I've never visited or spoken to a 'sex worker' ... but I think that you are right in that, given a healthy alternative to earn a decent living, most women would grab it ... the problem is, where will these job opportunities come from? ... and in the meantime the prostitutes must feed themselves and their families.

We have the same problem in Namibia ... and a big debating point recently was the issue of polygamy ... most guys seem to be in favour of it but not so women ... I wonder if men would be so enthusiastic if women were also allowed to have multiple husbands ...

Lauri said...

Yes I agree Graham, I think something needs to be done to protect the vulnerable. You hear terrible stories of abuse even by the police. Recently there was a story here in the newspaper about a police officer who hired a prostitute and then raped her. When she went to the station to report him they said she had no case because she's a prostitute. Luckily one of the NGOs stepped in to help her.

As for polygamy I think you're right- if women had many husbands it would be another story all together.

Joyful said...

I agree with your comments about legalization of prostitution leading to increased sex trafficking. This is already a huge problem all around the world, perhaps more so in so called "developed" countries.. Sadly a lot of people aren't even aware that sex slaves exist in our own backyards.

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