Carol Freeman
Carol Freeman

Deeply disturbing premises

Last week, George Lekgetho, when arguing for the legalisation of prostitution for the 2010 World Cup, said: “It is one of the things that would make it [the tournament] a success because we hear of many rapes, because people don’t have access to them [women].” Statements like this one confirm all my worst fears about the position of women abuse and myths about rape in South Africa.

The premises here are firstly that men are incapable of controlling their sexual urges; secondly, that if such urges go unsatisfied, men will resort to rape; and thirdly, that it is up to the government to provide enabling legislation for these uncontrollable sexual desires — all are deeply disturbing!

Many men throughout the world experience extended periods of celibacy without using prostitutes, or indeed resorting to rape. The commonly perpetuated myth that a man’s sexuality is somehow more urgent and savage than a woman’s should be deeply offensive to men. Many men and women throughout all ethnic groups and cultures choose to exercise their sexuality only in committed, loving relationships; or, at the very least, with another consenting adult. There should be no place for this myth to continue in a society which strives to promote the value of equality.

Men rape for many reasons, including a desire to exert power in response to a feeling of entitlement, or perhaps to fulfil a need to humiliate and oppress their victims to compensate for their own perceived inadequacy. These men are rapists, and as diverse and as complex as the reasons for their behaviour may be, it is by no means excusable and should never be tolerated. The idea that men in general are capable of rape if their carnal desires cannot be satisfied elsewhere is preposterous, and profoundly insulting.

It is dangerous to perpetuate the myth that all men will forcefully and violently take from a woman “sexual gratification” when they can find no one to give it willingly, as this implies that any man would be willing to rape — this simply is not true. Most men have a profound respect for women, and would never assault anyone in this most violent and intrusive way. Men who rape do not do it for sexual gratification, and they should be removed from society.

Finally, even if George Lekgetho’s thoroughly misguided belief were true, when did it become the government’s responsibility to legislate in order to accommodate this most anti-social behaviour? Women who work in the sex industry already suffer a higher number of assaults and rapes than any other group. With the exception of relatively few “high class” call girls and massage-parlour sex workers, women in this industry tend to be desperate and thoroughly exploited. Their situation may be such that they have no choice but to sell their bodies in order to feed their families. Such women are vulnerable enough without sending men to them who now believe that they have a government-endorsed right to sex. Regulation would not protect these women, as they are exactly the kind of people sought by such predators.

It is to South Africa’s credit that it has been chosen to host this most prestigious tournament. This does mean, however, that the eyes of the world will be scrutinising our young democracy. When comments like these are reported internationally they paint a bleak picture of men, women and sexuality in the South African context. With rape and violence against women at catastrophic levels, ideologies like Mr Lekgetho’s cannot go unquestioned. I sincerely hope that the 2010 World Cup does not focus on providing sexual experiences for men at the expense of being a successful sporting tournament, one of which all South Africans can be proud.

  • Bryony Green

    Very good point, and I completely agree. Is there any legalization of male prostitution for the World Cup? I understand that this is not as serious (or at least as widespread) a concern, but it would be interesting to see if any specific comment had been made.

  • Robyn

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Robyn

  • brent

    To stop prostitution prosecute forcefully the clients, more so than the workers,
    To stop rapes vigerously track down the the raper and once found thown them in jail and throw away the keys.
    Anything else is interlectual rubbish

  • Nontobeko

    Spot on! Funny how Lekgetho is looking for ways to ‘gratify’ rapists and not ways of bringing them to book. He’s dehumanising men by implying that their minds are weaker than their bodies.

  • Tlanch Tau

    Was he talking about male or female prostitution or prostituion as a whole?

    “It is one of the things that would make it [the tournament] a success because we hear of many rapes, because people don’t have access to them [women],”

    And who said the them part was referring to women? It could be that he was reffering to prostitutes.

    And it’s legal in other countrie’s i don’t see why we can’t tax them for the money they make. You’d be surprised, it might turn into a million if not billion dollar industry.

  • stephen

    of course male prostitution would be legalized aswell, it’s an un-gender biased legalisation of prostitution and women will be able to excercise thier equal right to sell sex

    brendon thinks that humans ar’nt much more evolved than animals..and then yes these two statements are correct,

    men are incapable of controlling their sexual urges

    men will resort to rape

    its how it works on national geographic

  • Tlanch Tau

    I agree with you when you say men who rape don’t do it for sexual gratification but to violate their victims and I feel those should definately be put in jail. It was stupid of him to say those things in justifying the legalisation of prostitution.

    I really don’t see anything wrong with prostitution being legal, to me we will have more tax payers and the economy of the country will grow. The same applies with the porn industry, a lot of countrie’s are making money out of this and yet we are still very behind with that. As much as we try and deny it, all these porn shops like adult world, hustler, etc would have gone out of business if there was no market for them.

    And I don’t see the link between the legalization of prostitution or pornography with degrading women etc as a lot of people especially religious people claim.

    Ever been to the Red Light District in Amsterdam lately? It’s even a tourist destination, men and women go there not just to get some, but just to check the place out and they spend crap lot of money while at it.

  • Odette

    I agree wholeheartedly with your views on men and rape. I’m also thoroughly sick and tired of all men being classified as uncivilized creatures incapable of controlling their sexual urges. The vast majority of men don’t rape and find the very thought of it disgusting. Let’s not demonise our menfolk.

    As for the legalisation of prostitution, my view is that we can never stamp out prostitution so we must devise some way of managing the industry in a legal manner. People enter the sex industry for innumerable reasons and at present they have no protection under the law. They are at the mercy of escort agencies, strip clubs, massage parlours and pimps.

    Prosecuting the customers instead of the sex workers, however appealing that may sound, will not eradicate the industry – it will only drive them further underground I think.

    Legalising the industry will confine sex workers to specific areas, making it easier for law enforcement to monitor and taking sex workers out of the areas where we live. Health and safety measures can be put in place, monitored and enforced. The types of services that are offered can be defined, leaving police officers to concentrate on those practices that fall outside the scope of the law.

    From an economic point of view the country can collect tax revenue from the industry. One of my concerns would be the govt “profiteering” from the industry so a possible measure would be to restrict the number of sex workers in any given area.

    In any case, the legalisation of the sex worker industry must be seriously discussed at some point. This is not known as the world’s oldest profession for nothing, so let’s at least put our thinking caps on and start dealing with it in a mature manner.

  • AM

    The question still remains though:
    Should prostitution be leagalised?
    Is the writer for or against legalistion?

  • Berend Schuitema

    The Member of Parliament in question made a pig of himself with his statement. But please note that his insensitive remarks did not go unnoticed and he apologised. Whether this apology is to have educative value for his own consttuencey is only to be hoped. His loose lipped prejudice is unfortunately more widespread than we may think. Add Jacob Zuma and Jackie Selebie as two more of the same type of customers.

    Carol Freeman’s assault on this particular MP in question, demonstrating a type of latent criminality, is well said and I agree with everything she said. Viva to our human rights activists who are never to be caught napping!

    However banking on such statemenets as premises for constructive discussion can do nothing else than befuddle matters further. They should be punished and indeed their comments in public, as public officials challenged around every corner they take.

    Let me therefore take a different tack and get away from the misfortuned comments of and ignorant MP try and unpack this sensitive matter from the point of view of a community policing enthusiast who has lots of working experience with regard to the sex industry, women walking the streets and, above all violence and rape against women sometimes on the street, but mostly indoors and in family-type situations.

    The first point is that violence and rape in our society is pandemic. Over 90% of these are incidents in which the victim knows the perpetrator. (This fact can be dug up from official SAPS statistics, even though these to a large extent are massaged to create a most positive image so as not to jeopardise the already encroaching darkness over 2010). This is a socio-economic problem and the burden for a solution rests on those we send to parliament to do so. They are making a hash of things. While we have economic growth (now slowing down) we also have growing unemployment. Not that unemployment is necessarily a generator of rape and violence. However the growing gap between rich and poor, a direct result of government’s neoliberal economic policies, is seen by many well-informed analysts to foster violence and concentrated among the poor living in slum-like conditions. It appears that rapes and reckless, meaningless violence to persons, including rape, are more commonly perpetrated by those with dashed expecations and becoming poorer since 1994, living in the post 1994 environment of flourishing ostentation, but made to feel everlasting dregs of society. We are speaking here of a social patholology for which government attention is contested to be responsible.

    The second issue is the already by and large self regulating commercial sex industry. While all may seem well, there is a growing problem with corruption, exploitative and cruel pimps, underworld protection rackets, also including rogue SAPS members, on the prowl. The main reason is that these businesses mostly operate just off the legal radar. A proper legal framework would make a difference. This is a flammable discusion and advocacy even among human rights activists is divisive if not derisory.

    Thirdly we have women, very often there are young kids, who roam the streets waiting to be picked up as “sex for sale” objects. Experience shows these are mostly the female component of what is generally known as “street kids”. The majority of these by and large are little gangs of boys who operate and look after one another and mostly doing crime. The boy problem can easily be resolved by setting up drop in and care centres or providing foster homes. While girls may be less inclined to run away from home in most cases, when they do, more often than not they are to be found roaming the streets as “prostitutes”.

    Then of course the “prostitution/criminal sub-culture” to be found in any major metropolitan centre in the world. I say “sub-culture” because mostly these women mostly know one another, and look after one another. But being open and vulnerable on the streets they exist in an environment made up of pimps and all other types of scoundrels. Maybe these offending “gentlemen” we are speaking of have swollen heads thinking that our own South African cities rank among the top of the world, underworld included.

    All in all, it seems to me that the said MP and company are watching too many Dallas SWAT movies and probably are kerb crawlers themselves! Shame on them!

  • Philani

    Well prostitution will never be a solution to rape crisis in SA.
    Promoting prostution is promoting HIV/Aids

  • Grant Walliser

    You have focussed squarely on the ‘legalise to prevent rape’ aspect that I agree is laughable and the minister needs his head read. Is it not possible, however, that the blundering fellow has inadvertently sparked debate on a worthy topic though?

    In what way could prostitution get worse than it is now? We know it as the world’s oldest profession for a reason. It won’t simply go away. I can, however, think of quite a few ways that it could get better:

    1) Sex-workers could form a union and stand up against exploitation. It works for all other exploited workers in every country of the world. The only reason they can’t do it now is because their profession is illegal.

    2) Sex-workers could walk into a police station and report being a victim of a crime without fear of prosecution for the way they earn their living.

    3) Sex workers could work free-lance, resign from bad companies and join ones where they are treated/paid better. They could have provident funds for retirement instead of overdosing in misery induced by the end of careers due to failing looks and age.

    4) Sex workers could join the tax-paying public and contribute meaningfully to the national coffers.

    5) Sex-work companies could offer a better, safer service to clients and drive the illegal ones out of business or minimise their influence. Transmission of STD’s could be reduced and perhaps even HIV infection rates would come down a notch as a result.

    6) Laws regarding under-age sex-work could be better enforced in an open legitimate industry.

    7) Legal companies would benefit from reporting illegal activities such as child sex, human trafficking, illegal prostitution etc. so as to increase their own market share. People love incentives.

    8) Police resources could be focussed on the smaller illegal trade with better results.

    9) The overall image and self-respect of the person who has fallen into the industry would be improved. The person does not need to suffer the additional indignity of it being branded illegal.

    I hardly think that most people working in the industry wanted to be there. Since we know it won’t go away (history illustrates this) why not at least legitimise it for those who are forced to earn their living from it?

  • Mere male

    With SA’s history, we should be careful before we go prescribing morality and “immorality” for others.

    What disturbs me is that many prostitutes appear to do it for economic reasons. Surely a caring society should ensure that no-one is so desparate that they follow that route?

  • Taxman

    The debate as to whether prostitution ought to be legalised and controlled is really NOT the issue here. Many may feel that it’s high time it WAS decriminalised and controlled.

    But it’s the special spin put on the issue by George Lekgetho that’s at issue.

    The notion that men resort to rape because they can’t legally buy sex.

    That’s an appalling attitude. But one must accept that the coarsely unsophisticated Mr Lekgetho probably articulates some sort of coarsely unsophisticated vox populi opinion.

    And that IS a worry.

  • Owen

    Castrate the rapists, trouble is they will still be mentally unstable individuals who will then rape with other objects.

    Legalise the oldest profession BUT how does one change the damage forced sex (don’t tell me a women can have pleasurable sex with say 6 guys in one day) does on the mind of individual concerned. To keep ‘doing it’ most have to revert to drugs or alcohol as a crutch. Once that happens they are then completely exposed to bad elements.

    Khadija did an article on human trafficking. Scary stuff. Some repsonses there noted that the Aussies and the Netherlands are rethinking their legal industry.

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  • wendy

    you have been looking at this from a westernized perspective- rape is sadly a relative term- you have to open your mind and try to grasp that in some cultures a man taking what he wants from a person considered for many years to be property is not as evil as we perceive it to be- not to the “rapist” anyway

  • Grant Walliser

    Owen – I agree, its sad and scary. Perhaps it is a matter of making a terrible situation into a bad situation until we have the resources to deal with it properly? Its very tricky though, I agree.

    Perhaps abortion is a good analogous example. Its horrible no matter how you look at it but better done through a proper hospital or clinic than in a back street room by an unqualified butcher?

    Really tough topic…taking strain here :(

  • Tash Joseph

    I agree with Taxman – what’s at issue here actually isn’t decriminalisation (which is a whole other debate – Ms Freeman, I’m sure you’ll well remember rabid varsity debates around this issue!) – it’s men’s attitudes to women. Not all men, certainly, but certainly many. Rape is not a sex crime; it’s a crime of power and control. But we don’t take rape seriously in this country, we never have. Charlize Theron’s ad which was whipped off the air because some blokes couldn’t handle the truth is a case in point. Crime stats last year indicated that rape was down, but of course the truth is that reporting is down – everything about the process of reporting rape, pursuing prosecution, going to court etc etc seems designed to make women victims all over again. Decriminalising sex work won’t make a damn difference to sexism, violence against women and South Africa’s patriarchal system.
    Rant over, I think!

  • marcia

    To me it just seems like members of parliament are always looking for way to justify some of the bills that they propose.How can a person in his position defend rapists by saying that they rape because they don’t have access to women.It’s the same as the Zuma rape trial where he justified his actions by saying that as a Zulu man he would be foolish to let a woman who is wearing a mini skirt go without havins sex with her.This means that men think that they can do as they please with women and get away with it because there is no access to women.What about men who rape their wives or children,i mean if you are a married man then why do you rape because your wife is there and if she refuses why rape her because you have her all to yourself 365 days in a year?

  • http://Yahoo thelma

    i’d like to know: if men are so weak, y are women calles th weaker sex?and if men r so weak, y should they be the head of the house?who wants a weak head anyway?(no pun intended).no woman wants a weak man-trust me, i’m a woman.

    and 4 these sex crazy ppl he is defending, i hope they condomise and don’t believe in “shower power”.once we give in to one thing as a society, we’l give into another,till it becomes the norm, & tht’s how a society decays.everything under the sun has already been done-so learn from history. if we turn into Sodom & Gomorah, the wrath of God wil surely come. so all these sex crazy pple need our prayers and lots of therapy.
    God bless Africa. thelma.

  • Yam

    Although there are many good arguments for legalising prostitution I don’t think South Africa is ready for something like that. Far better we spend the money and resources on sex education, rape education and gender equality training for all South African men and women. Its quite shocking how prevalent the minister’s misguided views are among the majority of South Africans – even well educated young men have been heard to say ‘If I must ask twice then I’m just taking it!’

    Rape is not about sex or desire – it is about hate, humiliation, retaliation and physical violence. Rape is murder of the soul.

  • afronooit

    In Africa the position of women remains very low. The adulateion that JZ and Iron Mike Tyson receive make further argument unnecessary.

  • Eagle

    I agree with your point Carol, but what baffles me is how Jacob Zuma gets so much support from women’s groups that are supposedly, opposed to rape.

    My other point is that there appears to be some differences in how various cultures see rape and prostitution and, if a person from a particular majority culture sees the issues in the way that George Lekgetho does, the viewpoint of minority cultures such as mine, as a white male, might not be that relevant and the point might have to be acceded to.

  • Michael Graaf

    While it´s easy to reach consensus that we need, as a society, to do something about the sex industry, and to deal with rapists, if one thinks through the practicalities any current proposals are problematic.

    While there are clear instances of prostitution, there are probably even more borderline cases. Criminalisation, as we have now, encourages the blurring.
    “Removing [rapists] from society”, unless applied in the extreme sense of the old SA, means jailing them; not only expensive but the opposite of rehabilitation. While some may gloat at the prospect of rapists being raped in jail, can´t we rather address the cause (patriarchal culture) than the symptoms?

  • Bwanadon

    Seems some of the responders think (roughly translated) “If it makes money it must be OK”.
    Then why not legalize and unionize armed robbery; or, for that matter, all criminal activity…after all, it makes money and we could tax it. This mindset could open up whole new worlds of opportunity!

    How about a Protection Racket Union?…a Murder-for-Hire Association?…Arsonists Incorporated?

    On the other hand it just may be that MP Lekgetho has a sexual problem of his own.

  • Richard Mungwara

    Let the prostitutes decides for themselves. What do we know about the trade for us to make a well informed decission.They need to have a governing body,regulations and conducts. There is alot at stake. Some people will take advantage of these prostitutes, pimps and human trafficking not to mention aids.What is so special about World cup that is important than human lives.

  • Pieter

    “Most men have a profound respect for women”

    I wholeheartedly agree. My pet theory about sexism is that men believe women think they are lower-class animals who cannot control themselves… and women believe men think they aren’t self-sufficient (among other things). Truth is, many more men respect women and many more women respect men than you would think! We often get angry at an illusory foe.

    As far the main content of the article: I don’t personally endorse prostitution because I believe it to be exploitative. However, prostitution will happen. And right now prostitution is a particularly dehumanizing profession in South Africa. Practically speaking, prostitutes would be better served if they could be assured of their safety and it would be good to take steps to curb the spread of STDs. This may happen if prostitution gets legalized, although I’m not sure about the specifics. The legalization of prostitution could be good or bad for SA and the devils are in the details. But I still find the presumption that men are animals that can’t control their urges offensive.