In July this year sex workers defiled a 13-year old boy in Mzuzu and infected him with sexually transmitted infections. Many such cases abound amid an alarming proliferation of prostitution in Malawi. Prostitution shows no signs of relenting. It seems the oldest profession has come to say in the country.
It is only proper that the case of the abused teenage boy and other factors have spurred Malawi Women in Tourism (MWIT) into some plausible controversial action to register them. Although registering the sex workers may not be the best of the solutions to pursue, it is a very good starting point. Legalising it would be the best.
We are confident MWIT has ample conviction of the arguments why Malawi should let people sell sex in a well regulated capacity, as they do in Netherlands, Switzerland and parts of Mexico, among other countries. The success stories from these countries are worth emulation.
Arguably, prostitution is a victimless crime. While some advocates argue that prostitutes are victims of Johns and pimps, sex work can be a victimless crime if women sell their bodies out of their own volition. Moreover, it doesn’t make sense to arrest sex workers if they are their own victims. It has been argued elsewhere especially in academia that prostitution should not be a crime. Prostitutes are not committing an intrinsically harmful act. While the spread of infections and other detriments are possible in the practice of prostitution, criminalisation is a sure way of worsening rather than addressing such effects.
Legalising prostitution would reduce violence against women. Prostitutes who experience violence may be reluctant to call the cops since what they’re doing is illegal. Sex workers in licensed brothels, on the other hand, can have somebody to back them up. Health debate agrees brothels offer the safest environment available for women to sell consensual sex acts for money.
Most night queens we interview are passionate about expressing their support for these registrations. For example, they insist that they always use condoms, whether the client prefers to or not. The sad reality is that making sex work a crime can drive prostitutes underground and make them less likely to practice safe sex and get tested for sexually transmitted disease.
Legalising prostitution can be a source of tax revenue. This is self-explanatory. And so would it to save meagre police resources.
As a matter of fact, prostitution isn’t going away anytime soon–certainly not even in the next millennium. There will always be lonely or adulterous men in Malawi who will pay for sex, and there will always be depraved women willing to rent out their bodies. It is indisputable fact that prostitution has become a part of our culture. It’s high time to legalise and regulate this part of Malawi life, even if a lot of people have ethical problems with it. We legalise and regulate a ton of commerce that’s morally controversial — like gambling, alcohol, tobacco, erotic dancing and “even pornography in the confines of our privacy”. Yes, women can be coerced into prostituting themselves. But we’re not helping them by making consenting sex work a crime.
How long will the head of Mother Malawi be buried in the sand? We have all too often taken too long to understand issues sometimes. A case in point is how we allowed many of our beloved ones into their early graves all in the name of avoiding conflict with culture at the outset of the face of HIV and AIDS in 1985 when we started rather late with the “condomise campaigns” after the first cases of the pandemic were recorded in Malawi way back a year earlier.
Fascinatingly, the wind of change is blowing over the world including Malawi. It can do us more good and harm if we become proactive now taking the first steps to register our daughter, sisters and aunts mired in the illegal business. Human rights activists in Malawi and elsewhere are stuck to their guns warning the government against legalising prostitution. However, the pros to legalise it outweigh by far the cons. Let reason prevail over myth. So let us have them registered at all costs.