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Pandora’s Box: Legalizing Prostitution

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Modern media prefers the term “sex-worker” instead of “prostitute” when referring to women who receive money or goods in exchange for sexual intercourse because it feels the former is more polite and respectful. At the same time, the latter, on the other hand, is rude and disrespectful. May I remind you, however, there’s nothing honourable about having sexual intercourse in exchange for financial or material benefits no matter what the media may want to call it. Therefore instead of sugar coating the problem with gentle words I have chosen to use the terms “Prostitute” and “Prostitution” in this blog post.

A number of surveys have been carried out in Colombo and suburbs to discover the public’s opinion concerning the legalization of prostitution. The Sri Lankan society often has a divided opinion on many issues but not much on this one. Apparently, the entire Sri Lankan society is on the same page concerning the legalization of prostitution. While a minority of Sri Lankans are opposing the move citing cultural values, ethical standards, and religious beliefs, the majority of the population are in favour. They feel it’s a wise move towards safeguarding the human rights of the prostitutes, reducing poverty, as well as reducing rape and child abuse in the country.

Unfortunately, though the majority has failed to see the bigger picture again, in my opinion, as responsible Sri Lankan citizens, we cannot approve of legalizing prostitution because this problem is not just an issue of cultural values and religious beliefs. It’s more than that. To be candid, legalizing prostitution will be opening the proverbial Pandora’s box. Here’s why?

Legalizing Prostitution is risking the Sri Lankan Woman

Austria, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Indonesia, and even our neighbouring country, India are among the nations where prostitution is either legal, partially illegal, or tolerated. All of these countries share a common problem, however. Forced prostitution and trafficking of minors!

There’s your first problem with legalizing prostitution. Prostitution, whether legal or illegal no civilized woman in her right mind, will ever be willing to sell her body. There are approximately 40,000 prostitutes on the island today. How many of them do you honestly think aspired to become prostitutes one day?

Once legalized, it can inspire other forms of prostitution, such as the production of pornographic content, and establish stripper clubs leading to increased demand, creating a shortage in the supply. The only way to bridge the shortage is by exploiting more innocent women and forcing them into prostitution. Even now, women are being forced into the industry. In case you are in favour of legalizing prostitution, think about this. What guarantee do you have your mother, daughter, sister, girlfriend, or wife will not become targets once the industry goes legal? Legalizing prostitution is painting a target on the backs of Sri Lankan women. Don’t be part of a real problem by favouring a pseudo-solution.

Legalizing prostitution will boost Human Trafficking

A few years ago, a local politician urging the legalization of prostitution said Sri Lankan women don’t need to be alarmed about their safety because the government can bring prostitutes from overseas. Did you know that child and women trafficking is a significant problem in Europe, the United States of America, New Mexico, and the Philippines? The organized crime syndicates in these countries are responsible for trafficking thousands of women and children every year. They lure young women and children under the false pretences of employment in modelling agencies or lure them in on the promise of other lucrative employment opportunities. This procedure for forcing the victims into prostitution is systematic, proven, brutal, and inhumane. Once the victims are under the control of the traffickers, the pimps break their spirit through means of drugs and gang rape. Once the victim is addicted to drugs, she will remain in the streets. It’s the reason why so many prostitutes are also drug addicts.

A study from the United Nations’ International Labour Organization estimated 3.8 million adults and 1 million children were victims of forced sexual exploitation in 2016 around the world. Out of that 4 million, 99% were women and girls. If the authorities legalize prostitution in Sri Lanka, these numbers will skyrocket boosting sex trafficking at a global level because forced prostitution is the only way the organized crime syndicates will be able to keep steady supply lines.

When we favour the legalization of prostitution in Sri Lanka, we become voluntary contributors to the problem of global sex trafficking. We become a part of the problem, not the solution. We get our hands stained with the blood of innocent women and children. Say no to legalizing prostitution in this nation!

Legalizing Prostitution puts a price tag on Women

Prostitution is not a profession. It’s not a service to the human race. It’s a crime against women—an insult to humanity. When you pay a prostitute, you are not paying her for a service. You are paying her for selling her body and her very soul along with it. You are putting a price tag on her. Legalizing doesn’t change it other than making it more official and tolerable under the law.

Prostitution is not a profession. It’s not a service to the human race. It’s a crime against women—an insult to humanity.

Yohan Perera

Today I cannot help but wonder why Women’s Rights activists who campaign to gain equal status for women are silent on this matter. Why aren’t they raising their voice against making women look like objects of pleasure available to the public as long as the price is right? The moment you favour legalizing prostitution, you are putting a price tag on not just an individual woman but the entire race of women. You give your son the impression that women are for sale. The girl in his classroom is for sale. His female teachers are for sale. Even his mother and his sisters are for sale as long as the price is right!

Legalizing Prostitution can boost the HIV Epidemic

The lobbyists for legalizing prostitution argue doing so can reduce HIV infections because governments can introduce laws to make safe sex compulsory. These arguments are made based on theories such as,

  • Prostitutes rush the process along with clients for fear of getting caught by law enforcement, and often don’t take the time to discuss protecting against STDs.
  • Even those who do have access to condoms, and the time to put them on, are often reluctant to do so because the police will confiscate them and use them as DNA evidence against the prostitutes and their clients.
  • With heightened risks of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, sex workers face substantial barriers in accessing prevention, treatment, and care services, primarily because of stigma, discrimination, and criminalization in the societies in which they live.

These are lousy arguments because there are absolutely no guarantee men will always comply with using condoms. The majority of the time, either they become violent when the prostitutes suggest using condoms or will coerce them into having unprotected intercourse for a higher price. Besides, although condoms can reduce the chances of infection, they can’t completely rule out the possibility of infection. Also legalizing prostitution won’t take the stigma away. The Sri Lankan society will always treat prostitutes as prostitutes and criminalize them.

Wrap Up

The advocates for legalizing prostitution often create a smokescreen by quoting the issues involving the sex workers’ human rights, sexual crimes against women and children, and poverty. We cannot legalize prostitution and expect the sexual crime rate in the country to magically drop because after all, you cannot snuff out evil with evil. Evil always breeds more evil.

Instead, we should urge the government to introduce stricter laws capable of curbing the rising trend of child abuse and women in Sri Lanka. The lawmakers must work along with law enforcement to introduce witness protection, special courts, and procedures to hear abuse cases and provide legal assistance to victims.

It’s hypocritical to talk about the welfare of a prostitute without ever giving her an opportunity for redemption. If we can rescue drug addicts through rehabilitation and provide a better life to beggars through vocational training, then why not the prostitutes?

We, as a nation, need a strategy for alleviating poverty, but legalizing prostitution is not that strategy. I remember the “Janasaviya Poverty Alleviation Programme” inaugurated by the Ranasinghe Premadasa administration back in October 1989. It definitely could not eradicate poverty as a whole, but we can draw some inspiration for our present times. If we as a nation could do so much at a time when technology and other resources were at their grassroots level, how much more can we do today.

We should be ashamed for believing in the legalization of prostitution to help us out of poverty. We are a country with a highly literate population. Our youth are skilled, talented, and innovative. We must not settle for shortcuts. Sri Lanka was once a great nation. Let’s restore her former glory. Say no to legalizing prostitution.

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