By Christopher Rezel –
It’s time for Sri Lanka to decriminalize sex perform or validate it in some manner in order to handle what is a decades-old reality.
Bringing prostitution inside the bounds of legality will curb the spread of sexual illnesses, which includes AIDS, and eliminate barriers that drive away social workers from providing these vulnerable guys and girls medical and counselling assistance.
It will get rid of underground criminal elements that now operate brothels and derive the most financial advantage, besides stop exploitation of the desperate and helpless involved in the trade.
In our attitude towards these and other much less fortunate folks in society, we should be guided by the Buddhist perfect of compassion.
Sri Lankan is a nation of higher literacy and the above observations would be self-evident. But there is a tendency in most of us to surrender our rights on ethical problems to the various religions that seek to monopolise them.
Media reports of occasional brothel raids in poorer neighbourhoods may grab public interest but has done small to cease an business that is resilient and widespread. Police raids are scarce at the top finish of town, on star-class hotels and other exclusive venues, exactly where city-savvy prostitutes transact encounters.
In this regard, it would be naive to promote tourism and feel that single male and female visitors devote their dollars on merely experiencing beaches, landscapes and archaeological artefacts. The reality is that soon after dark they seek out physical excitement and fulfilment in bars, pubs and clubs, such as they would normally do at residence.
Police harassment of sex workers have to only place greater burdens on the lives of men and girls forced into the trade, mainly because of a lack of option employment or a social security network. In many instances, desperation and the require to supply for children would drive divorced or widowed women to the simple option of sex work. That reasoning need to go for the thousands of child-burdened war widows, especially in the north and east, who have all of a sudden turn out to be breadwinners without education or employable abilities.
If their lives are to be turned around, those ladies need to be provided with education and abilities. Subjecting them to the trauma of abuse and humiliation through arrest, production just before a judge, fining and then releasing, is never ever a solution.
Police and judicial resources are much better directed at significant crime locations swamping Sri Lanka, such as homicides, armed robberies, illicit drugs and alcohol, gangs and connected illegal trades. These and other regions of harmful and violent criminality bear tiny comparison with somebody providing sexual solutions, at most a benign trade. In addition, sexual crime is bound to increase exponentially if brothels have been to be eliminated.
The topic naturally brings to mind journalist Sharmila Seyyid and her contact for sex work to be legalized and its providers protected (Colombo Telegraph, April 27, 2015. Safeguard Sri Lankan Muslim Journalist Sharmila Seyyid Who Supports Sex Workers’ Rights: Muslim Civil Society.) Sharmila’s contact has led to a regional Taliban element taking it upon themselves to “punish” her and her household, the usual reaction of men in patriarchal societies who hold quick to the view that their power over a woman’s physique should never be challenged.
We should recognise that Islam is a single of the world’s fantastic religions and it is unfortunate that a handful of extremist give it a poor name by interpreting sacred text to suit their own twisted agendas. Such reprehensible activities are now helped by social media by means of which anonymous cowards can stir up these segments of society who are impressionable and like buffalos, appear to a leader.
The authorities must stamp down difficult on such deviants. Otherwise, the Taliban illness may possibly expand right here also and give rise to a plague of self-styled and scheming pseudo imams who victimise innocent citizen beneath the guise of defending Islam. We do not want such loathsome situations, as has occurred in Pakistan, exactly where a young girl, Rimsha Masih, was arrested for allegedly desecrating pages of the Quran, a charge punishable by death in that country, and subsequently the man who had brought about the charge, imam, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, getting arrested for desecrating the Quran himself and planting the pages in Rimsha’s bag.
Rimsha also, like Sharmila, has been forced into exile in a foreign land due to the fact of death threats.
It is unfortunate that in Sri Lanka, as with most Asian nations, sex is a taboo subject. But it would be delusional to think about that all Sri Lankan adults are asexual till marriage, except for that percentage coerced by religious or moral motives, or simply because of physical or psychological failing that require remedial intervention.
Even so, it wouldn’t be far wrong in stating that most Sri Lankan males practise double standards and subterfuge when it comes to sex. We are all virgins and insist on our marriage partners getting untouched as well.
In this regard, it would be intriguing to know the quantity of Sri Lankans who own computers and access sex websites, keeping in thoughts that even lusting is sex, in a cerebral way. (Of course, we would all say we had been only getting curious.)
Religious barricades should be overcome if Sri Lanka is to decriminalize the sex industry. The paradox is the uncertainty of no matter whether the country is a secular state, where there is distance amongst organised religion and the nation state, or a theocratic 1, like Iran, where all important choices must have clerical approval.
Buddhist, Christian and Islamic clergy (stated in alphabetic order) have always had a say in the nation’s political life, regularly with bloody impact. Policy-makers in turn exploit politicized clergy, conscious of its capability to influence voters.
That is element of Sri Lanka’s tragedy. But in this, the 21st century, it may be time to bring about a clear separation of church and state. Clerical meddling in civil matters need to be stopped. It is an area lawmakers are voted in to oversee. Mixing religion with a nation’s legal base is bound to trigger strife in between peoples, as it has devastatingly proved repeatedly.
Following all, the clergy is also produced up of fallible guys and girls and their weaknesses are universal. In Europe and Australia, exactly where sex has been an open subject, the systemic sexual molestations or physical assaults carried out in religious institutions over the years has been under scrutiny and public discussion. Such openness might take but much more years to arrive in Sri Lanka and the rest of conservative Asia. But it could be time to cease suffering alone or, alternatively, laughing behind our hands at passed-on secrets. Instead, social taboos need to be stamped out and circumstances created for victims to come forward. Frank and open discussions are the only way to heal.
Let me finish with an episode that may possibly bring on a smile. My initial sex-connected report, written in the early eighties, never ever got into print. At that time, I was a reporter on the Ceylon Everyday News and my every day rounds brought me in contact with a specialist in venereal illness. He took me to the government clinic down De Saram Spot, Colombo 10, and offered me with statistics and reports on the spread of VD, particularly the tough to treat syphilis. His concern was that sexually transmitted illness was spreading wild and going untreated simply because of a lack of public details. Back at office, I wrote my report and submitted it to the news editor. Sometime later, the political stooge designated deputy editor, who by no means wrote and published a line, named me up and just before spiking my story, told me to refrain from writing indecent reports due to the fact “ours is a household paper”.
It is my hope that Sri Lanka has left such backwardness behind.
It is also my hope that this article will market further public discussion on sexual workers and their sad plight.
*Christopher Rezel, Australia. Writer and journalist formerly a reporter on the Ceylon Everyday News.