South Africa is the only country in Africa (and one of only five in the world) to legalize gay marriage – It did so in November of 2006. And now if some progressive politicians have it their way prostitution will become legal too in the country. The advocates of the move are arguing that if the oldest profession is made legal in South Africa, it will enable the government to regulate it, tax it and curb the spread of HIV/AIDS through better provision of health services and sex-ed to the commercial sex workers. On the other side of the argument are those concerned with morals and the effect this may have on South African family values.
I must say I am impressed by the boldness of those advocating for legalization of prostitution in South Africa. The country has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world – perhaps an indicator of a thriving albeit life-sucking sex industry – and it would make sense for the government to be able to provide healthcare to registered sex workers. The Mbeki administration was grossly incompetent in addressing South Africa’s AIDS problem. It is my hope that the Zuma administration will steer clear of Mbeki’s bizarre AIDS policies, and what better way to start than by making sure that sex workers are not spreading the disease.
As for those concerned with morals, the high HIV infection rates in South Africa should be a wake up call. Yes we should preach abstinence as the ideal and try as much as possible to instill proper family values in young men and women. But at the same time we should acknowledge the simple truth that people will always have sex, period. Pretending otherwise will only lead to more deaths, more orphans, lost productivity and a whole lot of misery for those left behind.