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May 26, 2022
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Legalising or Decriminalising Prostitution in PNG

Image Source: Daily Mail Australia

Everyone’s got something to say about the Prostitution Bill that was pushed forward in parliament. The clash in ideologies makes this a very sensitive issue. Ideologies such as: sex trade is encouraging adultery; and religion does not agree with prostitution ; and it is against cultural beliefs ;or prostitution is just like any other job and the women need to be protected to name a few. We all have our reasons for going against prostitution or supporting it and the people in the industry have their own reasons for doing what they do.

Those who are not really familiar with the contemporary discussion about prostitution usually use the term legalisation to mean any alternative to absolute criminalisation. This ranges from licensing of brothels to the lack of any laws about prostitution. Some use the term ‘legalisation’ to refer to any system that allows some form of prostitution.

A prostitution law reform is not only an issue here in Papua New Guinea. Countries around the world are also battling with this issue. But all these common definitions of legalisation are extremely broad. And conflicting interpretations of this term causes confusion in the discussion.

A group of academics of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Rhode Island in the United States of America reviewed the terms ‘legalising’ and ‘decriminalising’. They conclude, that ‘legalisation’ would mean the regulation of prostitution laws regarding where, when and how prostitution could take place. On the other hand, ‘decriminalising’ eliminates all laws and prohibits the state and law enforcement officials from intervening in any prostitution related activities and transactions unless other laws apply. To put it simply, legalisation refers to a system of criminal regulation and government control of prostitutes and decriminalisation means the removal of laws against prostitution.

It is up to our law makers to do a thorough research into how decriminalising or legalising will affect our country as a whole especially the sex workers who are at the front-line of this issue. We can always take examples from countries like Germany where they have legalised prostitution ; or Australia where in some states they have decriminalised prostitution and see how we could possibly turn out. Taking into consideration that not all countries are the same and the results vary in different countries. Or we could look at different ways to approach the issue like in Sweden where the buying of sex was criminalised not the selling. Meaning that the women selling sex were not apprehended and charged instead the buyers which are usually men, were charged. It is clearly a complex issue.

We may sit in our homes and offices and discuss the issues but the real people who will be affected by our decisions are out on the streets trying to make a living selling sex , either by force or willingly. And just like everybody, they also have rights as human beings. It is good to approach such issues with an open mind.

A good read on prostitution in PNG can be found on the Daily Mail Online.

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