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Time to legalise prostitution

by Lesotho Times
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THEY are routinely pilloried as Likuena or crocodiles. They endure daily lives of insults and abuse. They are blamed for every vice in society. The world is never short of epithets with which to stigmatise them.

It seems no one ever spares a moment to reflect on what drives these young girls and women into their miserable lives of prostitution.

Yes, it is dubbed the world’s “oldest profession.” But given a choice, I doubt anyone would ever want to survive out of the proceeds of prostitution.

These girls and women hardly enjoy what they do. Their smiles are deceiving, only meant to seduce their targets. They are not smiles of joy.

They ply their trade during the most miserable hours of day particularly in those dusk winter hours.

Who in their right minds would want to swap their office desk with standing at a traffic lights corner in biting winter and to endure the indignity that goes with it all.

Absolutely no one! These girls and women are forced into this miserable profession by the sheer heavy weight of poverty and circumstances entirely beyond their control.

They are victims of structural societal problems not of their making.

Of course they will be the odd ones who are motivated by the need for quick bucks and regard prostitution as the easy way out despite the fact that they had at their disposal the wherewithal to pursue different career options.

But for the vast majority they are in it more by design than desire.

Many would in fact want to pursue honourable alternative means of living but for society which is unable or unwilling to assist them.

I, therefore, hold a somewhat different perspective of how society ought to approach prostitution.

I am not at all convinced that criminalising prostitution has achieved anything other than entrench the stigmatisation of a category of people.

Progressive societies like Germany and the Netherlands have adopted more nuanced policies to govern their citizens who opt for this way of life.

In the red light districts of Amsterdam and Berlin, the grand old profession is an ever booming sector responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Not only do these countries recognise prostitution as a profession, they regulate it in the same way as other professions.

Participants in the industry are in some instances required to pay taxes from the proceeds of their occupation.

As I see it, it’s high time we tried to adopt an equally nuanced approach and adopt policies to govern our citizens who have either opted voluntarily or have been forced into this way of life by circumstances.

The reality is whether we like it or not, prostitution will always be a part of us. It’s a social problem we cannot simply wish away.

Suspended South African police commissioner Jackie Selebi was spot on when he urged his countrymen to seriously consider legalizing prostitution for the duration of the 2010 World Cup.

I would go further and say in Lesotho, let us legalise it permanently. Let us adopt the right policies to regulate the profession. Let us have those who opt for it to contribute to the national fiscus by paying taxes from their proceeds as they do elsewhere in Europe.

There are also many advantages that will accrue from such an open approach to prostitution. We are one of the countries in the world most devastated by Aids.

By keeping an open register of prostitutes and demarcating our own red light district we can effectively tackle Aids.

If those who engage in sex with multiple partners as a source of living are consciously known those indulging with them should take the necessary protective action.

No one will dare visit a red light district without the necessary precautionary consignments.

Once a proper register of sex workers is drawn up, resources must be devoted to helping them develop alternative means of generating income so that those who want to quit may do so.

I am sure we have diligent dress makers, fashion designers, cookery experts and all kinds of entrepreneurs among those plying the prostitution trade as a last resort.

Given the necessary support they will be able to make good on their expertise to earn an honest living.

Let us face it, the most dangerous kind in spreading HIV are probably not the likuena but those men and women who operate from the safety and comfort of their love nests.

At least the likuena are better because they are not in denial of their behaviour. Anyone who picks up a likeuna and care about themselves, know that they have to use protection.

Which is why I think rather than harass these people, let us assist them in their endeavours because they are honest.

The same cannot be said of the women and men who want to portray themselves as paragons of virtue while engaging in surreptitious sex acts with multiple partners.

They don’t stand in the streets so their activities are not immediately known by their unsuspecting clientele.

Some are even doing office work during the day and become likeunas at night in the comfort of their brothels. They are the most dangerous species.

I am guilty of using the word in this article but the very same practice of referring to prostitutes as likeuna makes me cringe.

For those who did not know, Likuena is a royal clan in Lesotho. The national football team was named after it.

To call these ladies in the streets Likuena is more of an insult to the Bakuena clan and it’s all unwarranted.

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