Soccer the draw, not sex

According to BBC News, South Africa might legalize prostitution when it hosts the World Cup in 2010.

The law, proposed by Member of Parliament George Lekgetho, has met with approval in Durban, home to a large red-light district. Lekgetho argues legalization will reduce rapes and bring the country added tax revenue.

Legalizing prostitution is a serious action that should only be taken after full consideration of its consequences, which will echo beyond the month-long competition.

Durban’s support appears to be profit-driven, which is disturbing. In any discussion on legalizing prostitution, the main purpose should always be to protect the sex workers involved.

The sheer number of World Cup spectators who might use sex services increases the risk for contracting sexually-transmitted diseases. South Africa would have to prepare its health care system to support the sex workers who become pregnant or sick as a result of increased business.

For a country whose health care system isn’t well established, the task is daunting.

Legalizing prostitution for one event sends a message that the government only cares about sex workers when the world’s watching. If the country doesn’t respect its sex workers, it can’t be trusted to protect them or look after their sexual health.

Turning the sex industry into a tourist attraction encourages patrons to use the false security of a government-administrated facility to justify unsafe sex practices.

South Africa struggles with the highest HIV-positive population in the world, at five million cases.

With the likes of ex-Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who said he showered after having sex with an HIV-positive woman to avoid contraction, at the helm of the nation, it doesn’t look like South Africa’s ready to educate its population on safer sex practices.

Even in countries with more advanced infrastructure, legalizing prostitution hasn’t come without problems; sex-trafficking is Europe’s fastest-growing criminal activity.

Discussion should focus on the issue of permanent legalization. The government should consider providing safe facilities and requiring sex workers to register.

It’s possible to provide resources without legalizing the industry, as the government seems eager to do so merely for the revenue.

Legalizing prostitution wouldn’t help minors and illegal workers who, being unable to register, might be denied access to resources.

Legalization requires more planning, and shouldn’t be seen as a fringe benefit of the World Cup.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.