Letter to the Editor-Wider debate needed on prostitution


30-April-2009

While one may feel like congratulating these potential leaders of tomorrow on having brought into the limelight the question of “prostitution”, I believe the subject is far too complex to be allowed to remain solely within the debating domain of a group of novices – who have only recently started to discover “their own sexuality”.

Let us not forget what the Bible says about “seeing the specks in other people’s eyes”.
Prostitution has long existed and will continue to exist in one form or another, for different reasons. The task of eradicating it has been attempted by many governments from time immemorial. But there appears to be no action without a reaction.

In 1959 the British Parliament passed the Street Offences Act to drive prostitution off the streets, with the result that prostitution went underground and flourished more than ever under the control of organised crime.

At least before the Street Offences Act, the UK authorities knew who the “prostitutes” were. In the modern UK, with the availability of mobile phone technology, the prostitute could very well be that smartly dressed lady who is next to you in a café, also enjoying an espresso!

Some advanced nations have, of course, moved to a more realistic and less hypocritical attitude by allowing brothels to operate legally. In Queensland, Australia, where prostitution was for a long time regarded as a criminal offence, today legalised brothels operate all over the state. In this way the authorities are aware who the prostitutes are and are able to minimise the spread of HIV/Aids etc.

At the very base of the debate on the question of prostitution lies, of course, the question of our morality – the question of the right moral conduct, principles taught by all the great religions of the world. But here again we could be opening a “Pandora’s box”. 

At the time of our independence I gave an interview to a BBC journalist who had the bravado to ask me the following question: “Mr President, I have been studying your statistics. A majority of your people are born out of wedlock. You must be presiding over one of the most immoral nations in the world?”

I answered him thus: “My friend, the fact that your people in the UK have mastered the art of birth control does not make you any more moral than we are. Maybe Seychelles has beaten Britain by a few years in the field of permissiveness – but by reading your statistics it is clear that you are catching up with Seychelles very quickly.”

The day when BBC Radio aired the interview, Sir Selwyn Selwyn Clarke, a former governor of Seychelles and known as a great social reformer, called me from London congratulating me on the “very pertinent” remarks I had made.

Thank you, Mr Editor, for allowing me to open up a wider debate on the issue of prostitution in Seychelles.

James R. Mancham

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