un-prosecuting prostitution

Posted on June 15, 2007


As mankind’s oldest profession, prostitution is never going to go away, no matter how much we might pretend it doesn’t exist.

The Dutch, in their progressive wisdom, has shown the world how legalizing and de-tabooing prostitution could lead to better health and protection of sex workers.

Mexico City’s legislators are following in those enlightened footsteps by introducing a bill that would lead to the legalization and regulation of sex workers in the city.

Prostitutes are a common sight, even in the trendy middle class neighbourhood where I live.

They stand at street corners late at night, or in the wee hours of the morning, scantily clad in the often-chilly weather, hoping for some Johns to cruise along and pick them up into their cars and out of the cold.

No sane person would want to be in the sex trade voluntarily. But if you saw the grinding poverty in Mexico City, you would understand why some women are driven to make a living off selling their bodies.

It’s a good thing that something is being done that could protect these women and contribute towards their safety, especially health-wise.

Legislators estimate some 50,000 sex workers exist in Mexico City. If they were registered and had access to public health and education, hopefully less would fall prey to diseases. While something like under-aged prostitution would probably never be completely wiped out, given the ugly truth of human nature, its incidences could be lowered with legislation.

The truth is, in a corrupt and anything-goes society like Mexico, there will always be illegal and under-aged prostitution, legislation notwithstanding. It would be thoroughly naive to think that just by having some laws passed. the reality of the situation would change. But it is an encouraging start to know that legislators are willing to take on some of these difficult issues.

At the same time, the Catholic Church, still a force to be reckoned with here, is also correct when it accuses Mexico City lawmakers of focusing on sensational matters such as prostitution, abortion and same-sex unions rather than on more pressing issues like poverty.

The Mexico City legislators have indeed been seizing on high-profile issues to champion and have made parts of this still-conservative society uneasy.

Opponents have called their actions political stunts, which could very well be true, given that Mexico City has the opposition party, the Party of Democratic Revolution, in power. The party’s candidate lost by a razor-thin margin at last year’s Presidential elections to the right-wing National Action Party’s candidate and is likely to be attempting to burnish itself into people’s minds with these thorny issues.

So while the abortion law that was successfully passed earlier this year faces challenges by the federal government in Mexico’s Supreme Court, the Mexico City lawmakers continue to chip away. And they look likely to win this latest round about legalizing prostitution, given the majority they hold in the city’s legislature. Cynical though their intentions might be, they would still be doing the city’s sex workers a service when the legislation eventually goes through.