By Prof Princewill Alozie
December 2013, the Canadian Supreme Court strikes down anti-prostitution laws. Ordinarily in Canada, it is not a crime to sell sex for money. There are however, anti-prostitution laws that make it illegal to keep brothels, solicit clients in public, or live of the proceeds of prostitution. The Canadian Supreme Court unanimously voted to strike down these anti-prostitution laws, which they perceive as being “grossly disproportionate”.
The Supreme Court has however given the Canadian Parliament one year to draft another law to replace the one described as “grossly disproportionate”. Some religious organizations and social organizations are extremely unhappy about this ruling that removes impediments to the practice of prostitution.
The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies; as well as the Coalition for the abolition of prostitution are currently leading in the opposition against the judgment of the Supreme Court on prostitution.
There is prostitution in most of the technologically advanced countries of the world. Italy, Germany, France, Spain, the United States of America have prostitutes. Africa and the third world countries, not only have prostitutes, but are recruiting places for brothels in Europe.
The East European countries that were part of the defunct Soviet Union, have witnessed their young and destitute girls rush into prostitution. The point being made here is that the phenomenon of prostitution is not witnessed only in Canada. It is global. Sweden has laws that criminalize prostitution. France is in the process of having a law that criminalizes prostitution.
Criminalizing prostitution is in line with the hypocrisy that is prevalent in the larger society. Prostitution is a reflection of, and reaction to the prevailing social order in which everything has a monetary tag. The insurance companies can tell you how much they think your life is worth monetarily.
The property relations and mode of production and reproduction of goods and services within this free-market, profit-oriented capitalist social order make very few people stupendously wealthy, while the majority (including women) are pauperized.
It is this capitalist social order that does not care about the environment; that will insist on drilling oil from the arctic region irrespective of environmental cost; prepare weapons of mass destruction in a bid to have monopoly of lethal weapons; engage in expansionist and colonial wars under the guise of establishing human rights globally; or under the guise of fighting terrorism globally; that produces criminals and prostitutes. It appears correct that we should first address the source of crimes and prostitution, before addressing the consequences.
We may also raise the question, if it is appropriate to refer to prostitution as a crime. In so-called civilized societies, marriages are supposed to manage social and sexual relations adequately. What we discover is that officially people are married in a monogamous or polygamous setting.
In reality, promiscuity and unofficial prostitution reigns; one man, fifty wives; and one woman fifty husbands. Secrecy had been the hallmark of these relationships. Sometimes, wife-swapping is done in the so-called advanced countries.
From the standpoint of the Universal Human Rights doctrine, a person should determine what to do with one’s body. We do not criminalize a person for using his legs to play football or for indulging in sexual life.
If we wish to frown at our society that has become increasingly listless, violent and promiscuous, then we need to have a fresh look of how to control the advertising agencies that bombard our social consciousness with such pervasive ideas through film and musical industry, the electronic and print media.
The oppressive economic social order for the majority now makes us have official and unofficial prostitutes. More importantly, the Supreme Court ruling is tacitly reminding us to be mindful of the interests of the other half of humanity in all we do.
If we are to punish people, the term “prostitute” should be applied to both male and female in society. An Italian statesman was punished for relating with an under-aged prostitute.
In Nigeria, a State governor, who eventually became a Senator was proud to marry an under-age girl. His group tried to smuggle the idea of child-marriage into the Nigerian Constitution. The female in some countries are not even allowed to grow up to a point when they can decide to be single, married or engage their body in any desirable way.
We need to make wars punishable. Similarly, we need to make environmental degradation punishable. Prostitution is not the main problem facing humankind.
If you belong to the ruling class, or to the middle class where such a class still exist, you can condemn the sex worker from the point of an abstract, religious or social morality. If you are female, poverty stricken and about to be consumed by such pernicious poverty, prostitution may become an option; it becomes a survival strategy for quite a large proportion of the sex workers.
All hands should be on deck however, to ensure that we do not have majority of humankind live on the periphery. A just and equitable social order is what we need now.
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