A proponent of the legalized sex trade argued, “You will find incidents of ‘raping’ reduced by an alarming rate, if the ‘way is cleared.”
A meretrix is a licensed/registered professional sex worker who is under periodical examination by health authorities. A Sri Lankan maid faces being stoned to death in Saudi Arabia after admitting adultery. Her partner, also a Sri Lankan, was given a lenient sentence of 100 lashes on account of being a bachelor; to punish only the woman is a violation of her human rights. Today’s patriarchal societies are always unmerciful with women; the woman who offers sexual services is the most exploited. A friend of mine who is a practising Muslim told me that The Prophet would never have permitted this sort of punishment. The Saudi kingdom, sticks on to the puritanical Wahabi edition of Islam, using religion to maintain its authority.
Buddha once accepted alms and a gift from Ambapali, the courtesan[Ganika] of Vaishali. “If there is anyone who has not sinned let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus Christ told the men who condemned a harlot to death by stoning. Ambapali desired to serve food to the Buddha, who acknowledged the invitation against the opinion of the rulers of Vaishali, and after partaking alms, she donated her mansion to Buddha. Ambapali appeared in simple clothes without any curios, yet attractive. The Blessed One thought: “This female moves in sophisticated circles and is preferred by kings, princes aristocrats; yet is she is calm and collected; young, rich, thoughtful and unwavering. It is rare in the world, they, as a rule, are limited in wisdom and extremely immersed in pride; but she, though living in luxury, has gained the wisdom of a master, taking delight in devoutness, and able to comprehend the truth.” Buddha delighted Ambapali with the Dhamma. Her mind calm and opened up, it was the turning point in her life: She realised the profound Dharma and became a virtuous person and later an arhant.
The Penal Code has many provisions in opposition to illegal sexual conduct. Amendment to Section 363 of the Penal Code in 1995, enhanced the punishment recommended for rape up to 10 years of imprisonment. Under the Vagrancy Ordinance, the existing law, police can arrest the men and women loitering on the roads and prosecute them.
Police also can raid lodging places under the Brothel Houses Act of which according to the Section 2, running a brothel is an offence. However, arrest of the women is possible only if they were engaged in sex trade inside the premises. Further under the National Child Protection Authority Act, Police can arrest anybody in a brothel with a minor (under18 years) the charge being sexual abuse of a minor.
Military and sex trade
Prostitution as a profession was developed in the 19th century in Europe especially to serve the soldiers and low ranked officers as sexual partners though sex workers were an annoying presence to army hierarchy, particularly due to the possible spread of diseases. Some armed forces, however, encouraged sex trade to keep troop morale high. The sex industry gathered around military bases. American military bases in the Philippines had large red light districts until the early 1990s. The British soldiers were the sole patrons of The Monto red-light district of Dublin, the largest in Europe. Patpong and the city of Pattaya, the entertainment district in Bangkok were started as recreational locations for US troops fighting in the Vietnam War in the early 1970s.
The famous prostitutes’ rights activist Carol Leigh nick named “Scarlot Harlot,” coined the term ‘Sex worker’ instead of prostitute in 1978. Feminists are not in favour of the use of the term ‘Prostitute’. And they prefer to call them as sex workers. They maintain that “providing sex for money is a profession”. As international feminist organizations emphasize, “there is nothing special; it is only another job like many other jobs.” Females sell their bodies for money because of poverty. The opposite view is that sex should be limited only into marriage and within the delightful and joyful use of it by faithful partners so that devotion and trustworthiness is honoured. Islam and Christianity believes sex outside of marriage, be it pre-marital and extra-marital is an offence and a sin and should not be encouraged. In Iceland, Sweden and Norway it is illegal to pay for sex: they say, it is the client who commits the crime, not the prostitute. There are over 40 million sex workers in the world. 75 percent of them are between the ages of 12 and 25, and 85% are females. Human culture and prostitution go hand in hand; wherever we find evidence of existence of Homo sapiens, we find evidence of sex trade; the industry dates back to 3000 BC.
Chimpanzee sex workers?
In all ancient civilizations the bartering system existed for sharing goods or services: therefore the possibility of bartering sex for goods or service existed too. In contrast to the old cliché, “Prostitution is the world`s oldest profession”,— some Anthropologists believe, ‘hunting and gathering’, farming and spying to be the oldest professions—however, an analytical examination of records of the ancient times provide evidence of prostitution. Primatologist researchers have made startling revelation about Chimpanzees, our ape ancestors, and their human-like behaviours. They have witnessed numerous instances of female Chimpanzees providing sex to senior males in exchange for food.
Some feminists object to the legalizing in any form the sex industry; they argue it is exploitation of women or ‘male-centred objectification of women’ and, that it increases violence against women and undermines the concept of gender equality. They argue that prostitution is a form of male dominated violence against women. They further argue that, prostitution is not a conscious and designed choice that the majority of them do so because they were forced or intimidated by a pimp. If it is an independent decision, they think it is the result of extreme poverty or lack of opportunity; drug addiction, and other fateful circumstances.
Sex worker in early Buddhist societies
Though legalizing will add a meaning and a value to the trade, in a country like Sri Lanka where cultural and moral background is conservative, they will never accept a sex worker into the society. Instead of name-calling, these sex workers should be accepted as human beings. In early Buddhist societies seeking extra-marital sex was not considered a sin— sexual satisfaction outside the family was a common occurrence then. Known as Nagara Shobinis during the time of the Buddha, in India they operated freely. Buddha did not advice the king to rid the society of the ‘menace’. Later, as a result of the ownership and maintenance of property, sexual distrust and suspicion developed. It is a fact that from time immemorial, people have solicited sexual favours for a fee.
Rape the common alternative
Sex trade as a service should be acknowledged instead of criminalising these poor women; even though immediate legalizing is impractical they could be registered and monitored as has happened in most of the developed countries. Human rights of this section of citizen should be respected; we owe them this freedom to do what they desire with their bodies, within reason. The legislators cannot find answers to the grave issue, as sex is a basic human necessity, people will discover alternative ways to satisfy that need; rape being the most common.
Do women sell their bodies for their sexual satisfaction? No, it is poverty, which a social dilemma. If sex workers are registered, it will benefit both the parties, the client as well as the service provider; health authorities will undertake to carry out thorough examination on every registered worker and issue a permit. Under this scheme raiding of ill-famed houses will continue; but only by health authorities, instead of police. During the first quarter of 2015, there were over 300 complaints of rape, but they arrested only one-fifth of this number during the same period for selling sex. If legalized a good number of the perpetrators of the 300 rapes would switched to patronizing a brothel. It is obvious that if authorities act wisely these sex workers could perform an incredible service to the nation by reducing the incidences of gruesome acts or sex crimes. One of the main difficulties in controlling the disease and encouraging people to attend free clinics is the stigma and discrimination against them. If the trade is legalized apart from drastic reduction in numbers of HIV, the few infected would not hesitate to seek treatment. There is a strong case for future legalization, and much anguish due to a lack of it, let us make a start with registrations. Let these unfortunate women be reformed to become lady like service providers.
December 1st marked the World’s AIDS Day. Let’s wish Ran Banda Seneviratne be born again to create more scintillating lyrics for Amarasiri Peiris to sing…, “Veedi sarana Landuney…Landuney…, Lema pamanak lovata penena, laya nopenena landune; kuhumbuvekutawat varadak nethi, veradikara landune” --[her breasts are exposed, but her heart is hidden; she would not hurt even an ant, but is accused of committing a crime!.]