Thursday, 10 November 2011

Botswana to considers legalising prostitution

Botswana's former president and head of the National AID Council, Festus Mogae, has proposed legalising prostitution a part of the fight against HIV/AIDS. Legalising prostitution would help sex workers prevent HIV, he argues. Botswana has an extremely high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and sex work along the trucking routes from South Africa are well-known as corridors of HIV spread.

The ruling party in Botswana has yet to take a position on the issue but the opposition has expressed support for the idea, as well as the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS. Religious groups oppose the move.

If this were to happen, or even to be seriously considered by party leadership while in power, it would be a dramatic departure for any Southern African country government, who tend to avoid issues like this that might upset their rather conservative base. When the issue of decriminalising sex work came up as part of preparation for the Soccer World Cup in South Africa, there was an immediate outcry from many sectors of society. It would be very interesting to see how other Southern African governments would react to the debate.


  1. Most states legalize prostitution to stem organized crime or to participate in the lucrative business. I do not know of an instant where the legalization of prostitution led to a measurable drop in the incidence of HIV. Bostwana does not have the state apparatus to administer any law that legalizes prostitution. Also it is wrong to assume that prostitution significantly contributes to the spread of HIV. Can this problem really be abated without there being a reduction n the number of people who have unprotected sex?

  2. I think Mogae's point is that sex workers will be far more able to insist on protected sex if their clients can't threatened to report them to the police. Of course, as you say, it won't solve the whole problem - and it would be bad for the fight against HIV to allow political leaders to suggest that sex work is the reason for high HIV rates, but trucking routes and transactional sex definitely play a role in the spread of HIV around the SA/Botswana border, so perhaps a debate that needs to happen.