We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future. – Marshall McLuhan
Those readers who were adults in the 1980s will no doubt remember that South Africa was at that time an international pariah; her runaway economic growth of the 1960s had slowed to a crawl and her apartheid system was the subject of international censure. South African products were boycotted and anti-apartheid movements in Europe and North America had resulted in a series of political and economic sanctions and pressure for American and European companies to withdraw from the country. By the time the government started dismantling apartheid in 1990, South Africa was widely vilified as among the most backward and repressive regimes in the world. But that was 21 years ago, and today the story is quite different as demonstrated by this article published in Financial Mail on March 17th:
…After a recent court ruling, sex workers now enjoy protection under the Labour Relations Act. However, they can still be prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act for plying their trade. The case that brought about this situation is related to a 2006 incident involving a sex worker referred to as “Kylie” who alleged that she was unfairly dismissed by the owner of the brothel where she worked. In October last year Judge Dennis Davis of the labour appeal court, citing the constitutional right to fair labour practice, found that the council for conciliation, mediation & arbitration (CCMA) could indeed hear Kylie’s grievance, which led to an undisclosed settlement. The effect of this ruling is that sex workers are now considered employees by law but do not necessarily enjoy the right to bargain collectively, strike or do anything that would amount to the furthering of the commission of the crime. The ruling, however, takes SA law closer to legalising the “oldest profession”.
In April 2006, Kylie alleged she was dismissed by her employer…without a prior hearing and subjected to slave-like working conditions….She lodged a complaint with the CCMA, which…[ruled that Kylie] was engaged in an illegal profession and the commission had no jurisdiction in the case…the labour court…agreed…that the courts should not encourage illegal activity by offering assistance in such disputes…[But] the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC)… argued before the labour appeal court that the applicant was entitled to fair labour practices…under…the Labour Relations Act…[The WLC advocate] said…the constitutional right of fair labour practices is above the common law which nullifies contracts arising from illegal activity, such as commercial sex. [The] Judge…agreed, citing a previous constitutional court judgment that the right of life and dignity “vests in every person, including criminals convicted of vile crimes”.
WLC attorney Stacey-Leigh Manoek says the Law Reform Commission will release a draft bill on sexual offences in March 2012, which could partially or completely decriminalise prostitution. “Their work is criminalised but that does not make them criminals,” Manoek says. “We are not sure which way the Law Reform Commission will take, but we need to eliminate systematic abuse.”
What a change two decades can bring! Americans of the late ’80s claimed the moral high ground against a South African regime well-known for violating basic human rights, but today the situation is completely reversed; South Africa is moving into the 21st century with regard to women’s sexual rights, while the United States, as discussed in yesterday’s column, seems intent on moving back to the 17th with its use of high-tech pillories and branding irons. In an example of typical American “progress” on the issue of women’s rights, Colorado (once known for its high respect for civil liberties) is moving toward establishing the retrogressive “Swedish Model” with a profitable (for police) American twist, as reported in this AP story from March 19th:
A proposed prostitution crackdown in Colorado is focusing on customers. The state Senate planned to start work Monday on a bill that would promote a statewide network of so-called “john schools“…Last year, [Boulder attorney Beth] Klein pushed for a human trafficking law that added the sex trade to Colorado’s Organized Crime Act. “What we really want to have people do is go to these schools and be so transformed by the seriousness of this that they don’t do it again,” Klein said. Klein and Senate President Brandon Shaffer, the bill’s sponsor, want to see Colorado increase penalties for buying sex. Shaffer said the fine should be $10,000, with the money going to municipalities that want to set up john schools and treatment for sex workers. Colorado currently classifies soliciting sex a petty offense, below a misdemeanor, with fines as low as $75 — less than littering in some cases. People convicted of solicitation aren’t required to register as sex offenders. Shaffer…said a major goal of his bill is to increase fines so that cash-strapped municipal police forces have an incentive to go after johns and send them to treatment…”What we’re really trying to do is cut down on the enormous public harm that comes from human trafficking,” Garnett said.
Once again, adult women are reduced to pathetic, victimized legal incompetents by equating them with abducted children, and men are condemned to re-education camps in the hope of brainwashing them into seeing women this way. Worst of all, the new evil of asset forfeiture is used to enable an old evil, institutionalized pimping; the money to fund programs designed to convince men that women are inferior, irrational second-class citizens without the ability to make valid decisions about sexuality is being diverted from prostitutes ourselves.
In my column of November 24th I listed all the countries in which prostitution is still illegal; if you missed that one you may wish to look at the wonderful crowd our leaders want us associating with. It looks as though South Africa is trying to reform itself and move into the circle of civilized nations, but the United States seems to prefer the company of nations like Myanmar (Burma), a third-world militocracy, whose new American-style anti-prostitution campaign was described in Huffington Post on March 21st:
Authorities in Myanmar have announced a ban on massage parlors and restrictions on restaurants and karaoke lounges…in a bid to curb disguised prostitution…The privately run Myanmar Times newspaper said restaurants and karaoke lounges have been ordered to install transparent glass in their rooms, while beauty parlors will be required to install “adequate” lighting. Many massage parlors are fronts for brothels, while the other venues also sometimes offer sexual services. Prostitution is illegal in Myanmar and anyone caught running a brothel can be imprisoned…
Police militarization, government control of the economy, a vast proliferation of malicious prosecution and suppression of women’s rights; if you want a peek at the future of what used to be called “the Land of the Free”, Myanmar (or her giant neighbor China) may give you a clue. Perhaps one day in the not-so-distant future, South Africa may join Europe and other civilized regions in imposing political and economic sanctions on the United States for its reprehensible suppression of its citizens.