If prostitution is a major cause in the spread of STDs and HIV then we should tell our children it is a reprehensible activity that objectifies the people offering sex for money or in-kind, and a serious health risk. Moreover, as a society we find it so morally wrong that the laws of the country stands against it. The shame and indignity associated with prostitution have always been with us and will regrettably continue to be with us and no law permitting it could change that because prostitution is inherently wrong.
The case remains unconvincing that sex workers if brought within the law, by decriminalizing prostitution, would be coming forward in significantly large numbers to subject themselves to health checks.
According to the representative of CAFRA there are about 700 sex workers in St Lucia—most of them local. If by the definition of what constitutes a prostitute: “3 or more sexual partners a year”, a quote referred to by Dr Stephen King in the STAR’s weekend issue of 21st January 2012, then there were at least conservatively 2,100 illegal acts of prostitution last year and yet not one arrest. Surely in that type of permissible environment there can be little fear of being arrested and charged for committing the criminal offence of prostitution. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that it is not the criminalizing environment that is the barrier to seeking the appropriate health checks given the unlikelihood of being arrested and charged. More instructive is the generally accepted view that most prostitutes would rather not be doing sex work—an avowed position of the CAFRA representative. The reason they are therefore not coming forward for health checks has more to do with the shame and indignity of the work than with the illegality of it. And there is this: sex
workers would prefer anonymity as much as is possible, difficult as it is in a small society. For those who may want to suggest that it is the illegality that is contributing to the stigma; I will remind them that the stigma had long preceded the law. Prostitution has always been and will always be de-humanizing and inimical to human dignity.
What is indisputable and yet to be addressed by the proposers for a change in the law, is that in countries where decriminalization or legalization of prostitution has taken place there has been an increase in activity. The decriminalization group has not provided any satisfactory response to this fact, except to say only in hope more than anything else that it would not happen. All the evidence suggest St Lucia would be no exception- a relatively poor country with growing challenges of finding work for its citizens, a disturbing increase in struggling single parent families with mothers being the sole bread-winner and not forgetting an increase in moral decadence.
I am prepared to accept that there is a link between prostitution and the spread of HIV and STDs but my position is that decriminalizing prostitution is not the solution to the problem. Changing the law as suggested only amounts to dealing with the symptoms of a bigger problem: finding work for our citizens, that’s consistent with their inherent dignity
as human beings. Human beings are ends in themselves and should never be a means to end. That is why it is wrong to treat anyone as a tool of another whether for sex or any other reason. The moment a society whether by its laws or customs fosters the objectifying of people- prostitution being one of the most despicable case- then we are sure to create a society where people lack empathy, solidarity and care for others. It is because of that type of enabling environment that we begin to lose respect for human life. As I reflect on the challenges of creating better work opportunities for our people, especially the most vulnerable, I am reminded of how good government, the proper management of our institutions and being socially conscious citizens are vital in reducing the spread of poverty and its attendant problems.
Even if prostitution regrettably will always be with us, it is no reason to adopt actions that can only increase its occurrence and its related problems: human-trafficking, STDs, HIV and others. We must work towards reducing the incidence of prostitution. Our vulnerable women engaged in this dehumanizing activity of selling their bodies should be given preferential treatment so that they can be freed from sexual enslavement.
What is needed is an enforcement of the anti- prostitution laws in particular against persons operating brothels or the likes of it. Those operators should receive the full force of the law, because they are committing an even more egregious wrong of taking advantage of vulnerable women and sometimes men. It is because of the failings of the authorities to enforce the law in the first place that the problem of prostitution has apparently grown. And here is the irony: against a background of chronically poor law enforcement in that area, we are calling for what is effectively the legalization of prostitution which will attract new entrants and still hoping to control all its attendant problems through new related regulations governing the running of brothels. I wonder where this new optimism is coming from not to mention additional financial and human resources to ensure that pro- prostitution regulations governing brothels will be enforced.
There is a tendency in this country to import liberal customs and laws that purport to support the rights of individuals—decriminalizing of prostitution being the latest. In developed countries with higher levels of social development and resources the fallout from those liberal changes are manageable and largely contained but in a small poor country with relatively limited opportunities the consequences can be overwhelming and
disastrous. It is a bit like this: a pinch of salt in a gallon of water is unlikely to affect the taste of the water but in a teaspoon of water you sure will taste the
salt. We must remain
vigilant as a country to ensure those facile and copycat solutions never see the light of day.
Finally, on at least two occasions I have heard proponents for decriminalizing prostitution dismissively speak of morality being only one line of argument. Sorry, but in the final analysis it is the argument. Those proponents must be consistent because implicitly they are arguing on moral grounds when their underlying arguments are to make the case for the right to health care, right to look after one’s self and family, and the protection of the society. These are all moral considerations. Where I part company are the
means by which they intend to achieve those rights. Those rights should only be pursued when they are consistent with upholding the dignity of the human person. The case for decriminalizing prostitution remains feeble at best and unlikely to convince the majority of the population. Thank God the moral sensibilities of the
majority are still alive. We should never encourage prostitution unwittingly or otherwise because it an affront to human dignity.