South Africa: The Legalisation of Prostitution

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South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) has announced its intention to decriminalize sex work in South Africa. The decision by the ANC to support the removal of criminal penalties for sex workers was revealed at the final day of the ANC conference, where Cyril Ramaphosa was elected the president of the party.

The statue of Sex work has been a hot – and sometimes, controversial – topic in the country. Following the increased cases of HIV infections in the country, some in South Africans have argued that legalization of prostitution in the country will reduce the HIV menace and other sexually transmitted diseases drastically. Yet, others think otherwise and have cautioned that it is a bad decision, which will send a wrong signal and lead to a terrible precedence.

South Africa is not the only country to legalize prostitution. The Netherlands is one of the first countries in the world to do so. From the statistics available in the Netherlands, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases has been kept at a minimal low bar. With the decriminalization of sex work in the Netherlands, prostitution is regarded as a profession – just like you have doctors, plumbers, pharmacists, etc. Likewise, sex workers are treated with dignity and accorded the same rights as other workers. They have a social security number and pay taxes like other citizens do. More than that, the sex workers are subject to regular medical checks by the government health department. With the payment of tax by the sex workers, the government earns enormous income from the oldest profession in the world. That is not all, through the legalization of prostitution, the government equally tries to dismantle the power and influence of pimps and other human traffickers, who often not only make billions of dollars from their vulnerable female victims, they equally subject the female sex workers to slavery and other abuses.

Definitely, the legalization of prostitution is successful in the Netherlands due to the government’s efficient management and implementation of the programme. With the alleged corruption within the ANC ruling government, the question is, will the intention of the ANC governing party to decriminalize sex work in South Africa be well implemented by the government or will it just benefit some shrewd individuals at the expense of the sex workers? Time will tell.