Often nicknamed ‘the oldest profession’, prostitution has been an intricate part of human life, quite woven into the very fabric of society.
Prostitution in Africa does not have a one-size-fits-all kind of status. While it is criminalized in parts like Rwanda and South Africa, other parts like Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau have legalized prostitution and its subset transactional sex activities like buying sex, with no laws whatsoever regulating commercial sexual activities.
Different reasons have accounted for the increasing number of women involved in prostitution, and some of the most common of these reasons could be linked to poverty, civil wars, high unemployment rates among other things. In spite of these reasons, however, prostitution shouldn’t be legalized, and here are a few whys.
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Prostitution is degrading to the person of the individual, and a total violation of the fundamental human rights of an individual. The preamble of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) recognizes the “inherent dignity” of the human person, and as such, all humans should be treated with equal respect and dignity.
How is a woman expected to live with herself in confidence and high esteem knowing that another human can buy a piece of her for his pleasure? The act steals fragments of the individual’s person and their humanity. Legalization won’t protect prostitutes any more than standing on all fours in a garage will turn one into a car.
Legalized or not, prostitution is a form of violence against women because the act mostly involves women satisfying men sexually in exchange for money; the act comes off as brutish, savage, and a cold affront to the female gender. A woman’s body shouldn’t be treated as some mere commodity or property not belonging to the woman herself, but to the man who seeks pleasure in it.
Prostitutes are exposed to risks. Where prostitution is legalized, the risk of exploiting sex workers through exportation and trafficking to known and unknown places will be prevalent. This will expose them to higher risks like Sexually Transmitted Infections and even death in extreme cases.
Contrary to popular belief, legalizing prostitution won’t generate as much tax revenue for the government. Even under well-regulated circumstances, the expected amount of money will not come to the government because a lot of women won’t register as prostitutes. Since the act is frowned upon in most parts of Africa, women, even those involved in it, wouldn’t necessarily identify themselves as prostitutes.
It is often argued that prostitution should be decriminalized in Africa because it has been with society for far too long. But really, does a butterfly become a bird because it has flown for a long time? If so, then it could also be said that armed robbery should be legalized also because it has stayed with society for a long time.
The point is, calling a wrong a right does not make it a right, just like calling a sparrow an eagle won’t make the former fly any higher.
Prostitution should not be legalized in Africa because it will be a giant step into ancient times where there was no regard for human rights and dignity.