Monday, May 15, 2006

Prostitution has no place in our society

Prostitution has no place in our society  

For the past few months an argument has been raging on the possible legalization of prostitution in the country. The argument has taken different forms and has sadly been entertained by reasonable people amongst them medical practitioners, members of parliament and some UB academics. At the heart of the argument are three issues. First, is the value and sanctity of the human body. Is the human body naturally anything special that needs protecting or can be violated, sold in sex or slavey or lacerated in any way? Second, is our understanding of sex. Is sex an animal instinct which could be gratified on the basis of one’s Pula power? Third, what is our moral reference point or moral standard? On what basis do we determine wrong or right? Is our moral standard ‘the ape-man’ theory of evolution; that we are merely on earth by chance, having come through evolution and having survived through that old-fashioned tired maxim ‘survival of the fittest’. Or our moral reference in philosophers like the humanist Rene Discartes with his declarative “I think, therefore I am”; David Hume; the agnostic, Immanuel Kant, Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzshe, Bertrand Russell (whose life can be summarised by the word ‘contradition’), or Jean-Paul Sartre, the existentialist with his famous credo ‘Travel, polygamy and transparency’. Or do we turn to faith, Christianity, as a standard against which to live our lives?

Turning to the first question the Christian view tends to be fairly straightforward. It affirms the sanctity of the human body by arguing that humanity was created in the image of God. It argues that the human body is a temple of the Holy Spirit demanding care and preservation. But one may question why such a Christian view should matter in Botswana since not everyone in the country professes to be Christian. We are a secular state, some argue. The Christian view should matter if the statistic that 70% of the country is Christian is true. Any well functioning democracy will take into cognisance the dominant view of its population. The 70% never voted for a secular view.

If on the other hand the human body is nothing but flesh, mere meat, as some philosophers and certain thinkers argue, then a price tag can be easily fixed on it. It can be built a brothel in which sex-thirsty men one after another, repeatedly come and feast on it – the Pula-fit feasting on the Pula-weak. Have we as a nation lowered the value of the human body that we could argue that a price tag be put to it. Marxists should be appalled, and yet most remain silent! Have we so turned our backs on moral principles that we argue not only on putting the female body for sale, but also musing on how we can tax profits of such appalling transactions? While South Africa has set a moral regeneration board, some of our country’s top minds are arguing for moral degeneration laws. They are wrestling with the question: “How can we reconfigure reality to accommodate human passions?” God help us! If on the contrary we value females in our society and see them for what they are, people created in the image of God. If we love them as sisters, as daughters, as mothers and as friends, we will work to eradicate those conditions which have pushed some into prostitution.

On the second question of sex, the Christian view affirms sex as the intimacy builder to marriage. It doesn’t demean the woman’s body and put a price on it,  rather men in the Christian view are to see their women as “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”; equals in a sexual relationship. Those who argue for prostitution have shown a naivety of what strengthens marriage; they have repeatedly and yet falsely argued that marriage is strengthened by unfaithfulness. They should have done rudimentary research: asked their own female partners. They have also ridiculously argued that prostitution will decrease HIV/Aids spread because of hygienic brothels. The weakness of this argument is apparent. The pro-prostitution proponents haven’t grasped why HIV spreads. Research has shown repeatedly that a lack of condom use; multiple partners and lack of abstinence have in varying degrees contributed to the spread of the HIV virus. There is no evidence that those with multiple partners will want to sleep with prostitutes, or that building brothels in Gaborone will increase condom use in the cattle posts, lands and some dark lit city corner after partying the night away. What has become clear actually is that the original national campaign of ABC (abstinence, be faithful and condomise) has been overshadowed by a gigantic C, condomise, and the message of abstinence and faithfulness has been relegated to mythology.

On the third question of moral reference, the Christian view offers God through Jesus Christ as the ultimate moral reference. Life is lived on biblical principles, not through self effort but on God’s grace. Evolution theory collapses on the moral question; it rather promotes immorality. The human body in essence is similar to that of beasts, merely at a different evolutionary level. Our ape ancestors were smarter and cunning than others, those who were meek and kind ended as dinner. Virtue has no room in the scheme of things. Philosophers offer a cocktail of answers to the question of moral reference. Existentialists such as Sartre argue for the absurd and perceive man as being in the “hurled” or “dumped” state and as the author of his own values. Ravi Zacharias says of Sartre: “As for Sartre’s ethical theory, it is one of antinomianism – lawlessness. It is a philosophy that is unliveable.” The philosopher David Hume argued that man was all matter without a soul and therefore placed moral judgement on personal feelings. His philosophy is problematic and alienating, no wonder he observes that: “I am affrighted and confounded with that forlorn solitude in which I am placed by my philosophy.”  As for Immanuel Kant, usually ranked alongside the big three – Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, he posits agnosticism. The question still stands: what is our moral reference? God, an ape or ourselves? We nail the answer to the question; we nail future choices and future moral debates.

Prostitution has no place in our society. It must be perceived for what it is: an anomaly, a social disease in desperate need of a cure. A nation that plays dice with a social ill may indeed be purchasing “its own spiritual death on an instalment plan”. The challenge of rescuing girls forced into prostitution remains. At one level its resolution will encompass resolving the Zimbabwean impasse for many prostitutes in both Gaborone and Francistown are young Zimbabwean girls squeezed out of their country because of Mugabe’s misrule. At another level we will have to take a holistic approach and tackle national issues that in part engender prostitution: amongst these being unemployment, urban migration, poverty, female abuse, and moral degeneration.

Thapelo Otlogetswe
Johannesburg, SA.


Anonymous said...

Just a quick question: You are not really a critic of the theory of evolution, are you?

Anonymous said...

I am REALLY a critic of the evolution theory. However, in this article that is not my preoccupation. I argue that personal decisions on such matters as prostitution depend largely on one's view of what a human body is.

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