published on Sunday Standard [18.02.2007] here
This article is in part a response to Eddie Mdluli’s opinion on prostitution, but it is also an attempt to address the broader subject of prostitution.
While Mdluli claims to tackle the subject from ‘the standpoint of some research’ this is not evident, save ‘driving past by some prostitutes on some of our roads’ which he did.
His article reads like Ivan Vladislavic’s Restless Supermarket.
At one level, he asserts, “As a Christian, I am not for Prostitution,” Yet he extols its virtues.
The truth is that Mdluli rests content with a superficial kind of social analysis which glorifies the imagined benefits of prostitution and fails to grapple its underlying causes and negative outcomes.
Prostitution justifications appear like freezing ladies of the night – dressed in cheap dark fur coats of excuses and counterfeits of glittering pendants of misinformation. The argument patterns are the same: The Problem excuse: Prostitutes are at a high risk of contracting HIV and developing Aids.
Solution: Legalise prostitution so that prostitutes could come out of the shadows and have access to condoms and counselling without fear of victimisation and arrest. The Benefit excuse: Prostitution is beneficial to the prostitute and the society. The prostitute gets paid for selling her body; the society benefits from taxing whatever money she makes and exploiting her sexually. Everybody wins – it falsely appears!
However, our views on the subject are influenced by our position on the three issues: First is our perception of 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 slavery 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? On what basis do we determine wrong or right? – What Mdluli terms hiding behind ethics. Is our moral standard the theory of evolution; that we are on earth by chance, having come through evolution and having survived through that old-fashioned tired maxim ‘survival of the fittest’. Is our moral reference in philosophers like the humanist Descartes with his declarative “I think, therefore I am”; David Hume; the agnostic, Immanuel Kant, or Jean-Paul Sartre, the existentialist with his famous credo ‘Travel, polygamy and transparency’? Or do we turn to faith, such as Christianity, as a standard against which to live our lives?
Prostitution cannot be justified on the basis that it is an old profession – George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession – nor on the basis of its benefits – the end can never justify the means.
Crime, pilfering, thieving, corruption and assassination are equally old professions, and equally iniquitous. Gangsters and paedophiles trading in drugs and child pornography make unimaginable wealth. However, their ‘benefits’ don’t dope us into justifying their evil exploits.
If the human body is nothing but flesh, as some thinkers argue, then a price tag on it may be appropriate. It may be built a brothel inside on which sex-thirsty men feast – the Pula-fit feasting on the Pula-weak. Marxists should be appalled, and yet most remain silent. Feminists should be revolted, yet most stay hushed. An iniquitous activity can never be purified by clean surroundings and condom use.
Mr Mdluli, prostitution and marriage don’t mix. At the heart of marriage definition is exclusivity. The English poet William Blake in his famous poem, London, has shown that prostitution turns the blessings of marriage into death and decay resulting in a sense of increased despair, when he says “.....the youthful Harlot’s curse/...plagues the Marriage hearse”.
What is worrisome in our anti-Aids campaign is that the original national campaign of ABC (abstinence, be faithful and condomise) has been overshadowed by a gigantic C of condom-use, relegating the message of abstinence and faithfulness to mythology. I am persuaded of the need to resuscitate the ABC campaign giving equal focus to abstinence and faithfulness as to condom-use.
Huge funds have been poured into condom purchase, distribution and literature on their proper use. No resources have been set aside into teaching this society faithfulness and abstinence. That’s a grave mistake which this nation has started paying for heavily. Consequently, sexual activity is found amongst primary school pupils while unfaithfulness remains pervasive across the society.
Tackling the prostitution matter requires diverse strategies. At one level, its resolution will encompass resolving the Zimbabwean impasse for many prostitutes in both Gaborone and Francistown are Zimbabwean girls squeezed out of their country by Mugabe’s misrule. At another level, we should 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.
I see no study which documents the spread of prostitution in Botswana. Is it an urban malady or insidiously spread nationally? Its causes are still to be diagnosed and treated.