Make sex trade accountable

National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi's headache about what to do with the oldest industry in the world in 2010 might just present this country with the opportunity to finally decriminalise prostitution.

National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi's headache about what to do with the oldest industry in the world in 2010 might just present this country with the opportunity to finally decriminalise prostitution.

South Africa is already one of the most liberal countries in the world - what with the legalisation of same-sex unions and abortion on demand. Legalising prostitution could help the authorities to regulate the industry as well as stop the underworld's stranglehold on it.

Weeding out shady characters would obviously benefit the men and women routinely subjected to extortion and blackmail by unscrupulous clients and pimps.

Regulation should pave the way for recognition of the sex workers and consequently guarantee their rights and protection from exploitation.

Red-light districts flourish in several countries. Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, and recently Germany, are good examples of how regulation has cleaned up the image of the industry and given sex workers a semblance of dignity.

Religious sensibilities notwithstanding, it's high time the country weaned the industry from the vicious cycle of crime, child prostitution, drugs, human trafficking and the rest of the underworld.

Either the country goes the route of regulation or continues to shirk its responsibility by pretending its underbelly does not exist.

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