Legalising prostitution

2008-02-08 00:00

An African National Congress member of parliament, George Lekgetho, formally proposed at a recent meeting of the Arts and Culture parliamentary portfolio committee that prostitution be legalised for the duration of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. This bizarre suggestion was presumably based on the assumption that many of the visitors expected in this country for this sporting extravaganza will be coming not only as soccer enthusiasts but also as sexual predators. Indeed, Lekgetho made the point that rape is less likely to happen if access to sex workers is legal. He has subsequently apologised for his proposal and has withdrawn it.

There are grounds for a well-informed and careful debate about whether prostitution should be legalised. In certain European countries, such as the Netherlands, it has been made legal on the grounds that this provides greater protection for the interests of those who follow this profession. In South Africa at present it is illegal, although the law seems hardly to be enforced. A temporary change to the law merely to accommodate the assumed needs of men at a major sporting event rides roughshod over the ethical complexities that need to be faced if this question is to be responsibly addressed.

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