Africa need sex workers policies

Posted on December 18, 2016 12:52 am

No doubt Marilyn Monroe made sex and sexual appeal mainstream which helped in sexual revolution that happened in the 1960s, so it seems insane that some people with liberal views still appear to have major hang-ups about sex.Have never understood why people consider sex or sexual discussions as a taboo. Perhaps its because am a millennial and a libertarian who doesn’t care about what people say, think or do.In my view, those who are conservative, are living in denial when it comes to commercialised forms of sex, whether that be sex work or prostitution as some prefer to say, exotic dancing, lap-dancing or pornography. On the issue of sex work and prostitution, various parts of the world appear to be suffering from a mix of moral phobia and ideological myopia. That is to say, plenty of countries put in place laws that are meant to control the sex industry. I always its a waste of time and resources. In Africa, for example, where sex work has been criminalised, the current African governments have stated that they are committed to improving the regulation of commercial sex workers. So, I always ask myself, what is the rationale for such regulations?Again, the same countries state that their objectives of the proposed regulatory system are multiple fold including but not limited to safeguarding public health, the protection of residential amenity and protection of sex workers.Such policies objectives have been echoed around the continent. However, the primary aim in these three latter jurisdictions is to ban prostitution.The drive to ban or heavily regulate sex work appears to be under-pinned by a near-sighted belief within political, religious and certain feminist circles that all sex workers are female and victims of human trafficking who need to be rescued.The idea that public health needs to be safeguarded from sex dens conjures gross stereotypes about sex workers. It suggests that the various women and men straight, gay, bisexual and transgender who provide sexual services, whether they be brothel or street-based, are vectors of disease and social contagions.This is what I call colonial era view of sex workers, not a rational, evidence-based 21st century one.Recent research has clearly demonstrated that the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections among brothel-based sex workers in Africa was at least as low as the general population and therefore in my view I don’t understand all the fuss about commercial sex workers in Africa.

Similarly, recent claims about the dangerous spread of STIs in rural and urban towns as a result of sex workers cavorting with local residents have also been dispelled.In overall terms, it can be said African sex workers practice safe sex.Protecting African sex workers from violence and exploitation in the workplace from clients, brothel owners or managers and even the police is an admirable and difficult to oppose policy objective. So too is ensuring that sex workers’ workplaces indoor and outdoor have high levels of health and occupational safety standards.Recent studies of sex work in Africa have wrapped up the idea of protecting sex workers in two main rhetorical discourses: first, the idea that sex work and human trafficking are one in the same thing and, second, that sex work does not constitute genuine work. Labelling sex workers as victims is dangerous ground for anyone who claims to be in favour of women’s equality in Africa and presents them as all the same and denies them a voice in the debate.If policymakers in Africa are sincere about protecting the health and safety of sex workers then they are likely to find themselves in a difficult situation if their aim is to also protect residential amenity. Protecting the amenity of suburbanites carries significantly more political currency than protecting the well-being of sex workers. Hence, the protection of sex workers is likely to become a second or third priority within this context. Sex work indoor and outdoor runs the risk of being forced to locate in isolated and essentially unsafe spaces such as industrial zones, run-down parts of cities and other clandestine spaces. It is difficult to see how this outcome will protect sex workers. Like all other land-uses, brothels and other sex industry venues project outwards into their surroundings to an extent. The question is whether this is any more or less problematic than other land uses.Studies on community attitudes to the effects of sex premises on local neighbourhoods in Africa shows that the majority of people living near a sex premise are either unaware of its existence, or regard the business as having negative impacts. It would be naïve to claim that the sex industry, or any other industry for that matter, is perfect. It is also disingenuous of our policymakers and anti-sex work proponents to claim that all sex workers are the victims of either human trafficking or coercion. Ultimately, efforts to criminalise or over-regulate the purchase or selling of sex, or strict licensing regimes are likely to do more harm than good to the health and well-being of sex workers across Africa. Public policy on the regulation of sex work needs to be premised on a solid evidence base and participation from sex workers and sex work organisations, as opposed to the ideological and religious beliefs of the few.For the record, the most common sexually transmitted infections in Africa are HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, mycoplasma genitalium and trichomoniasis.

Contador Harrison