Mr Malema, The Inside of A Woman’s Body Is Not A Workplace

By Pinky Khoabane

Dear Mr Malema

WHEN slavery was abolished, we thought it had vanished from civilisation. No, it hasn’t. It has instead been reinvented and it is called prostitution. In today’s world, prostitution is linked to gender, class, and racial inequality and is one of the world’s most extreme systems of discrimination. Its victims are overwhelmingly female and overwhelmingly poor. The slave master as we know him, has been replaced by the pimp and the buyer remains the rich man who has enough money to buy sex and for that moment, do as he pleases with their slave. 

Slavery did not only displace millions of Africans to the United States but it also laid the foundation for the commercialisation and dehumanisation of millions of black bodies. It is a system so solid that African Americans have for centuries, had to battle political, economic, institutional and social oppression. In fact, the Black Lives Matter movement attests to the power and longevity of this system. 

Slavery condoned and justified the commodification of the black body. In fact, the popular narrative, pushed by those who benefited from slavery was that it was a system beneficial to the larger community and slaves themselves. Such was the power used to push this narrative that the house negro actually believed it. 

From the point they left their motherland, soldiers on slave ships and other men in the slave trade would routinely rape women and girls. Then, as today, sexual violence was used as a weapon of terror – to dehumanise the women and to humiliate their husbands, brothers and sons. 

The central hallmark of slavery and prostitution is that the slave and the prostituted person are subject to domination by a person who can do as they wish with their bodies. In both cases they do not own their bodies but are owned by their buyers. In slavery, the master owned the slaves and in modern slavery called prostitution, the pimp owns the slaves and sells them off to many buyers a day – some survivors of this trade say they could sleep with as many as twenty men a day. 

The biggest misconception is the notion that prostitution is a choice for the women who enter it. There’s a belief, intentionally meant to mislead, that the women enter into the sex trade by choice, with no coercion and that this is a simple economic exchange. Those who advocate for total decriminalisation say it is consensual sex between two adults and only oppose it when it happens between adults and kids. 

This is a false narrative propagated by those with deep pockets, the likes of George Soros, the Founder of Open Society, who has a history of funding organisations which advocate for the full decriminalisation of prostitution. 

Full decriminalisation of prostitution means the pimps and the brothel owners are allowed to legally operate. Can you imagine a world where we folded our arms and said: Let’s keep the slave trade going for as long as we curb the brutality of the slave master? 

Euphemisms that seek to hide the truth and horrors of the sex trade

You will have also noticed that with the false narratives of prostitution have come new words that seek to sanitise and hide the truth and horrors of the powerful. These are men with deep pockets who determine our worldview. They create euphemisms – dangerous words which obscure the truth and make it easy to go along with things which we know are wrong if they were called what they are. As a politician, you would know these words; deaths in war are called “collateral damage”, ethnic cleansing is called genocide, and prostitution is called sex work. 

“Sex work” was coined to normalise prostitution and to shift the stigma, harm and coercion which in the case of prostitution is money, and to normalise “work” which is not normal. 

No Choice or Consent in Slave Wage

As a Marxist, you should be acutely aware of Karl Marx’s arguments on slave wages and subsistence wages, not to mention his view that prostitutes were a victim of the capitalist system,  that commodifies everything including human bodies. According to Marxian theory free workers who survive on subsistence wages, the lowest wage upon which one can survive, are slaves to their trade. He argues that occupation for those who are outside subsistence labour provides meaning and purpose to the existence of labourers while the subsistence labourer works only to survive and is the price they must pay to put a plate on the table. 

Marxian theory challenges the notion of choice for the subsistence labourer. They have no choice and this view is attested to by many women in prostitution who have voiced a desire to leave the system of prostitution but use it as a means of survival.

Prostitution he says, is the only activity where the rental of the individual’s body includes one, or several body parts that are formally excluded from such transactions practically everywhere. He viewed the abolition of prostitution as a necessary part of ending capitalism.

One of the first things Fidel Castro did when he came into power was to deport pimps and those who preyed on Cuban women. Chairman Mao banned pimps and established re-education centres and job training centres for survivors of prostitution. 

There’s no doubt that there will be arguments on both sides of the debate to legalise or abolish prostitution and research will be presented to validate the particular position. And we know, there’s a lot of money pumped into research by the sex trade lobbyists, which skews the voices of prostituted people who want to exit this industry. 

The test is however this: Would you Mr Malema be happy to have your wife, sister, mother, aunt being a prostitute? Im almost certain that your answer is no. I’m yet to meet anyone who endorses decriminalisation of prostitution who is happy to enter that industry or have a member of their family enter it for as long as it is made safe. 

Those of us who condemn the inhumanity of prostitution are not popular. We are told women chose this and wouldn’t survive if it is abolished. This is not true. 

There exists the abolitionist equality law on adult prostitution which has already been adopted in 9 countries since the initiative by Sweden in 1999. This law gives agency to those prostituted by decriminalising them. It removes the power from the sex buyers and pimps by criminalising them. It removes the agency from the capitalist free market industry which profits from their exploitation. 

The Long Road Ahead

Our first point of call is to fight the false narratives that have come to justify the modern day slavery of prostitution. It will be a long hard road against men who have deep pockets to service and protect this multi-billion dollar. They buy law-makers, so-called human rights bodies, NGOs, fund research which promote decriminalisation of prostitution. 

Prostitution, Mr Malema, like slavery is not a choice. The said economic exchange between individuals, as in slavery, is between the pimp, brothel owners and the buyer. Very little goes to the prostitute. Her share only covers her survival so that she can never leave the system of prostitution. 

Prostitution is neither sex nor work. It is neither free or equal. It is a domination of one class against another. It is therefore quite surprising that so-called Marxists would suddenly cherish the capitalist free market system when it is women’s bodies that are being sold. 

Some more reading:


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