Another health expert in Jamaica calls for legalised prostitution

Just weeks after one senior medical officer called for the decriminalisation and taxing of prostitution, a senior university professor and community health specialist is calling for the legalisation of what is regarded as the world’s oldest ‘profession’.

Affette McCaw-Binns, professor of reproductive health epidemiology in the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry at the University of the West Indies (UWI), is suggesting that the legalisation of prostitution would help to restrict the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

Professor McCaw-Binns’ suggestion is similar to sentiments previously voiced by Dr Kevin Harvey, recently appointed head of epidemiology and AIDS in the Ministry of Health, and Professor Peter Figueroa, Harvey’s recently retired predecessor.

She said the legalisation of sex workers would provide the opportunity to regulate and monitor sex workers, thereby requiring prostitutes to undergo regular medical examinations and tests, not just for HIV/AIDS, but for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

“As far as I’m concerned, all of them should be legalised,” said Professor McCaw-Binns. “They should be licensed, registered and examined and tested every three months and if they are not fit to practise, they lose their licence,” she added.

The university professor further argued that keeping such practices illegal has not deterred women from entering the ‘profession’.

“It’s not going away. You’re not going to stop it, but these women need counselling,” she said.

She argued that regulation of the trade would also provide the opportunity for screening and re-education for those women because they feel it’s their only option.

“Those women need counselling and re-education so that they can go and get a different job,” she said. “But those who are in it and like it, I don’t have a problem with them, let them stay, but they shouldn’t be a source of spreading infection in the country,” she argued.

McCaw-Binns said it was important for individuals to separate their personal views on morality and values from reality. She argued that there had to be rules to control those who were determined to go against social norms.

“I have my values that I live by, but we cannot cloud our personal values with the social reality that we have to deal with out there,” she said. “We need to have rules and regulations to maintain a certain amount of public order and decorum.”

Just last month, Harvey provoked widespread debate when he called for the decriminalising and taxing of commercial sex workers or prostitutes, arguing that regulation of the trade would provide Government with close to $3 billion a year in tax earnings.

However, Prime Minister Bruce Golding subsequently dismissed any notion of Government considering such a move.

His former boss, Figueroa, four years ago argued that decriminalisation of prostitution would help to provide prostitutes with better access to health services, thereby helping to restrict the spread of AIDS.

The pros and cons of prostitution

1. Stemming the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
2. Health-care professionals are provided with easier access to prostitutes, thereby offering regular testing and counselling.
3. Country provided with well-needed money from taxing sex workers.
4. Sex workers would be able to work in a safer environment with increased protection from law enforcers.
5. The criminalisation of prostitution allows for the abuse of women and encourages human trafficking.

1. Prostitution is morally wrong and sinful
2. Gaining income from a sinful act would only bring a curse on the nation rather than benefit the country.
3. Legalising prostitution would be almost like legalising violence against women.
4. Exploitation of women and their bodies.
5. Legalising prostitution would not help to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, if anything, the problem would get worse.

See also:
* Prostitution for profit in Jamaica?
* Tax sex workers and the Government could rake in $3 billion a year from prostitution in Jamaica

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