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Controversy erupts over legalisation of prostitution in PNG

Prostitution in PNGKEITH JACKSON

VERBAL fisticuffs have broken out in the Papua New Guinea social media after Oro governor Gary Juffa warned the government not to succumb to the  legalisation of prostitution.

Juffa stated that what he termed “this sinister push” for legalisation was ill-founded and disrespectful to the people of PNG especially women.

He said it would cause greater problems and cautioned that it was often an industry controlled by organised crime which encouraged human trafficking and modern slavery.

He stated that, with 16 years experience as an official tasked with investigating transnational crime, he was certain PNGs law enforcement entities would be overwhelmed and unable to cope.

"We cannot insult our women folk like this,” Juffa said, adding that PNG prostitutes had choices to return to their villages and work their land and be useful there.

A prominent PNG commentator on Twitter, who writes under the pseudonym ‘Muntika Nation’ was outraged at the governor’s attitude.

“Let's not talk about ‘traditions’ when prostitution is the oldest profession,” she said. This is “pig-headed MPs making a balls-up of the prostitution conversation. Pun completely intended.

“Drop the gender bias as well in your misconception of the entire issue. Christians in PNG act as if they're holier than the son of God himself. It's painful to witness. I'm pretty sure Jesus was friends with prostitutes.

“And of all the pastors preaching the evils of legalising prostitution, I would bet money that 50% have been ‘clients’ at one stage.”

‘Stret Pasin’, another well-known observer of PNG affairs agreed. “Yes, [this is] something the bigots always forget or ignore when superimposing their political views on religion,” he added.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

I still think that the idea of having to sell sex to survive is repugnant Rashmii.

It is repugnant on the level of the debasement required and it is repugnant on the level of inadequate services and support available.

I'm not sure that gender matters so much in terms of prostitution. Anyone who sells sex for profit, male, female and points in between, are exploiting other human beings.

It just adds another element to the raison d'etre for sex - love, procreation, money and power (as in rape).

Paul Oates

Thanks Rashmii, that's the harsh reality of the whole problem with today's PNG. The government and those who make up the government are totally unable or unwilling to practically address the health of the nation.

The political system has been warped to allow the inept and greedy to take over. At the next election, the vast majority of PNG people will simply replace one lot of useless politicians for another or allow the same bunch to return to power by voting along tribal based affiliations.

No one apparently has either the ability, opportunity or the will to lead PNG out of the morass it has been allowed to descend into.

This discussion merely highlights just a symptom of the main disease.

Rashmii Bell

Let's not forget the Papua New Guinean male sex worker in this discussion. The gender-bias in language is something PNG politicians clearly, particulalry the males, struggle with.

Yes, selling sex may be viewed as degrading but it is cruel to say that it's 'repugnant' if it's the only means of survival when your government and mandated public servants are failing to deliver the basic social and welfare services that a burgeoning population requires. We all know this has resulted in the exploitation of children to consenting adults using this avenue to put meals on the table at night.

What are Papua New Guineans more horrified by? That legalising prosititution will no longer allow individuals and families to 'save face' when one of their own is recognised and protected by law to sell sex? Or that, men and especially women will have more control over their bodies to sell sex when and where they choose?

With an issue that will cause much disunity within the nation, it would be better for the people if the governement focused on improving (significantly) the services the people have been asking them to do so for ever so long!

Philip Fitzpatrick

Like Paul asks William, "Who is pressing for this industry to be formalised?" and "What are they hoping to gain from this initiative?"

I suggest this is what needs to be established before we continue to pontificate.

Like Paul, I smell a rat.

In the meantime I suggest letting the Two Kina Meris and the high class callgirls the Asians bring in for the politicians get on with it.

William Robinson

Phil, prostitution is the oldest profession. It will never be eliminated. And remember there are two participants in the transaction (btw any transaction requires at least two participants), the buyer and seller.

Your "The women doing it are either greedy or desperate." seems to ignore the "buyer" participant.

I find prostitution repugnant (for both the buyer and seller, particularity the seller), but however repugnant it may be to some, it will continue, so it seems sensible to me to somehow regulate it (full legitimization, decriminalization, state run, a Minister for Prostitution - I really do not know), but with particular emphasis on the seller.

Locking it up completely (that is, criminalize it, with armed Prostitution Squads bursting into premises, and carting off the participants to Prostitution Jails) simply means that criminal elements will move in big time, and I think the police have enough on their hands at present.

One only has to see the prodigious efforts made by police to control the ice epidemic that seems to be sweeping Australia. I suspect they really do not want to be involved in sex transaction between two consenting adults.

Forget eliminating it. There will always be a buyer looking for a quick transaction, and there will always be a willing seller.

Phil Fitzpatrick

There are two arguments here I think.

One is the right of women to control their own bodies.

The other is about protecting them if they chose to sell sex.

Sex as a financial transaction is degrading and repugnant. The women doing it are either greedy or desperate.

I doubt very much that legislation legalising prostitution will work in PNG. The agents administering the legislation will inevitably be inefficient, probably underfunded and, no doubt, corrupt. I imagine criminals will be running the brothels and probably treating the women badly, much as they do today in the illegal brothels.

In a country with a strong legal system and support networks it is fine.

In PNG it will be another disaster.

I suspect the move now has been initiated with the APEC summit in mind.

Paul Oates

Morals aught not to be the issue here. If you don't like the thought of someone else doing something you wouldn't, couldn't or shouldn't do, it doesn't necessarily follow that it's wrong either in law or custom.

The issues here should not be hard to discern since it's hardly a new situation or quandary being often referred to as 'the oldest profession'.

The practicalities of how to ensure the safety of those taking part is the issue. The spread of diseases and the health of those affected in the short and long term must be considered. The probability that organised crime will move in and use stand over tactics to control the industry whether it is legal or not is well established.

The probability that people, and women in particular, will be abused and used is well known.

So will the government be able to effectively police a legal industry. History says not. Will legalisation be practical? Obviously not.

Will legalisation protect the workers. That depends on the legal regime being accountable? Is that the situation in today's PNG?

In countries where there is a recognised and lawful industry, there is a greater expectation that public health will be protected. This is a very important aspect given the spread of the currently incurable STD's.

So who is pressing for this industry to be formalised? What are they hoping to gain from this initiative?

Michael Dom

A line needs to be drawn somewhere to protect sex workers but without regulation of the sex trade and enforcement of laws, much like everything else in PNG, I don't think legalization is that line.

Decriminalizing prostitution is an option because sex workers, who have rights as citizens, will then have support as individuals providing sexual services for payment to freely access police protection, legal and medical services, and to live without discrimination.

Regardless of our personal morality, making sex work a business in PNG might be making a big mistake.

Chris Overland

I am afraid Gary Juffa is barking up the wrong tree in this case.

There is ample evidence from other jurisdictions that the best way to both protect sex workers from exploitation and minimise the harms associated with the industry is to decriminalise prostitution.

This removes an important source of leverage over the women that is exploited by organised crime, which is offering "protection" to them, whether from violent customers or the police.

Also, it frees up the police to pursue other much more important crimes such as PNG's numerous thefts, assaults and robberies, while simultaneously removing a potential source of graft, whereby police are paid to turn a blind eye to what the "working girls" are doing.

Whatever Gary's moral or culture concerns he needs to get real and support a potentially useful initiative in this case.

When kiaps presided over law enforcement, prostitution was regarded as an unavoidable reality, especially in towns where there was a large surplus of young men over women.

As long as the working women behaved with reasonable propriety in public (e.g. not getting roaring drunk and assaulting allegedly defaulting customers or the police who came to rescue them), the typical kiap turned a blind eye to their activities.

Basically, it was better to have a commercial sexual outlet for the many young "foreigners" working in the town rather than having a lot of frustrated guys causing trouble with the local women.

The latter could generate a major conflict in pretty short order, so prostitution was most definitely the lesser of two evils.

Hopefully, Gary will reconsider his position.

Paul Oates

Having just returned from a visit to Europe where in Germany and Holland legalised prostitution is considered acceptable, one can perhaps see both sides of the coin.

Governor Juffa is totally correct in his fear that organised crime will take this industry over if allowed to due to a lack of effective supervision, lax medical standards and rampant official corruption. Pardon? Did I hear someone say that isn't the case in today's PNG?

Yet on the other side of the coin, in Europe where there appears to be effective, official control and proper medical and health standards maintained, apparently some women are quite happy to earn a living given law and order is properly enforced and they are physically protected from their customers and criminals.

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