Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria recently came under scathing attack for daring to speak the unspeakable: Calling for legalisation of prostitution. In a country where 82 per cent of the population is Christian and 11 per cent Muslims, Mr Gikaria’s suggestion was nothing short of an abomination.
Apparently, the MP was pushed to say the unsayable by the grisly killings of almost 10 of his constituents - commercial sex workers - by their unknown clients in Nakuru town. After the backlash, Gikaria conveniently went mum on the subject, perhaps afraid of the ramifications his “outburst” might have on his re-election bid next year.But as I have nothing to lose besides my furrowed face, I will take the risk and take the debate one step from where Gikaria left off. I also see no harm in legalising the so-called the “oldest profession in the world”.
For the record, I was once a good man with a lot of loathing for the evil job, until I made the mistake of visiting Amsterdam a few years ago. Dear Kenyan, if you want to retain your moral probity, I would strongly advise you to keep off The Netherlands, of course, unless you are going there on a noble mission such as giving our vice president moral support at the International Criminal Court.
If you didn’t know, Amsterdam is the devil’s playground. No wonder the city is aptly nicknamed “sin city”. Prostitution is legal there and so is marijuana smoking. You can buy bhang in any of the many shops spread across the city (and The Netherlands as a whole) called coffee shops and go ahead to puff away leisurely and publicly, the way Kenyan cigarettes smokers do. No one will even look at you; it is the most natural thing to do.
Just three minutes from the university that I attended is the sprawling Amsterdam Red Light District. Sometimes after classes, we would stroll down the district and ogle at half-clad women beckoning and soliciting customers from behind glass windows.
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The clients would go from window to window, weighing their customers up. And after settling on one of them they would disappear into one of the cubicles just like that. The sex worker would then pull down the red curtain and hide the rest of the business from the prying eyes of idlers, of course, until the business is done and the man has walked away.
I need not say that such vile business used to rile me up a great deal. Every time I passed by the Red Light District, I saw nothing but darkness.
That’s why one day, I confronted one of my classmates, a Dutch, and demanded to know why they allowed prostitution — a glaring sin before the eyes of man and God — to thrive smack in the middle of the city and urban centres across Holland.
For a moment, the young woman stared at me with horror in her face, obviously petrified by my “ridiculous” question. Then she asked, “Are you serious, Kinutia (she never pronounced my name correctly even once?”
It was my turn to stare at her blankly. “Of course, we do have prostitutes but we cannot allow this...” I responded haltingly.
“Then what’s the difference?” she asked with a broad smile and went on to give me a homily on the many advantages of legalising prostitution and within minutes changed my thinking about the entire topic.
In a nutshell, she argued that prostitution is a reality and is found in every nook and cranny of this godforsaken world.
However much you dislike it, you cannot wish it away. That however much you curse and preach against it, there will always be willing buyers and sellers. I thought about the many times sex workers have been arrested along Koinange Street and arraigned in court. But did this stop them from lining the street the next day?
So, whether you ban it or not, prostitution will continue to thrive. The logical thing is to regulate it; to allow sex workers to set up shop and do their business, legally. There is a clear advantage to this. The sex workers will get jobs and just like with other workers, they will boost the Government coffers by paying taxes.
Because the sex workers will be doing legal jobs, the Government will be obliged to protect them. In The Netherlands, all the brothels have CCTV cameras and police are always patrolling the Red Light District to ensure their safety. Police watch you even when you are tucked away inside the bowels of the brothel. If we had such an arrangement, the women who were killed in Nakuru would be alive today.
And so you think legalising prostitution will proliferate diseases? You are wrong. In The Netherlands, all sex workers are educated by the Government about how to take care of their health. Besides, they undergo medical check-ups regularly to ensure that they are free of venereal diseases. Those with the diseases are pulled out and put under medication and are only allowed back after they are fully healed. Those who contract diseases such as HIV, I was told, are banned for good from practicing commercial sex work.
After her 20-minute lecture, I agreed that legalising prostitution is not such a bad idea after all. But I told her that Kenya is still light years away from having a red light district Amsterdam-style. You see in Kenya, we have manners and do not see or hear any evil. That’s why sex workers crawl right outside our doorsteps in the city, but we are still steadfastly averse to the idea of locking them away in a red light district.