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Letter of the Day | Non-enforcement weak basis for scrapping laws

Published:Tuesday | June 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM


One can sense the air of resignation in a recent column by George Davis, 'Jamaica's stance on weed shows path for prostitution'. He was of the view that legalisation of prostitution was inevitable following suit on the decriminalisation of marijuana. In both cases, despite the prohibitions, citizens regularly and openly flout the law, so we might as well end the hypocrisy and legalise these practices.

I understand Mr Davis' frustration, but I would encourage him not to assess the value of the law solely on the basis of its enforcement. Road traffic violations, farm theft, and murder can be added to the list, along with prostitution and ganja. Should we repeal those laws and end the hypocrisy once and for all?

We would do well to remember that in any society, law serves an important function of protecting society, especially the vulnerable. Laws teach the expected behaviour of citizens. Laws can help us recognise what is right or wrong. For some persons, what the law says is the only ethical standard on which they rely. A good law, that is, one that promotes the common good, is always needed and remains relevant regardless of strong or weak enforcement.

Marijuana is a dangerous drug. Its lifelong deleterious effects on the mental and physical state of consumers have been well documented. The news reports of increased ganja use among children and youth since decriminalisation is an ominous consequence.

Prostitution is a dangerous undertaking. Mr Davis rightly recognised that slavery and trafficking go hand in hand with prostitution. When we review the experiences of countries that have decriminalised and regulated prostitution, the results are negative. There is increased human trafficking, child prostitution, and violence against women among other detrimental outcomes, for example, in Germany and Netherlands (World Development Journal, 2013) and Australia (Journal of Trauma Practice, 2003).




Why? For one thing, you cannot sanction one form of exploitation and expect that exploitation will be contained. When you remove the law that states a human being is not sexual merchandise, the replacing message is: 'Using and abusing people, in particular women, for your sexual pleasure is fun and good for national GDP; go ahead with it.'

Poverty is often cited as the primary factor for women turning to and remaining in prostitution. Blaming poverty alone distracts attention from the nature of prostitution. Another and perhaps a major root cause is abuse: physical, emotional and sexual. Selecting prostitution is not a rational 'choice'. It is the result of desperation with limited options.

I regret that Mr Davis' primary focus was the apparent hypocrisy of non-law enforcement, and not the real human tragedy behind the law. Buyers, whether men or women, short-change themselves by mistaking paid sex for real intimacy. Sellers, whether men or women, have ended up seeing their worth as human beings as merely a dollar sign.


Advocacy Officer

Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society