The late Jamaican Reggae musician, Peter Tosh had, in one of his songs, called for the legalization of marijuana and promised to advertize it. However, I do not think that Jamaica or any other country heeded his eccentric call. The smoking of marijuana, a common practice among Rastafarians, social wastrels and even supposedly decent men and women, is largely condemned owing to its effects on the behaviour and mental state of its consumers. Many cases of lunacy are traceable to it.
On Thursday 5th October 2011, the Nigerian press reported a very unsettling suggestion made by Senator Ike Ekweremadu on the floor of the Nigerian Senate the previous day during a debate on the scourge of human trafficking. By the reports, he suggested the legalization of prostitution because it has become impossible to stop it and some Western countries have done so, and argued that legalization will ensure its regulation through the licensing of its practitioners.
When crimes and social vices become intractable or criminals become recidivists, how should the state or society respond? Is it to throw in the towel or devise better ways of tackling them? Political and legal history informs us that states have always persisted in tackling criminality and social ills despite their recurrence and recalcitrance.
In Nigeria, there are so many crimes and vices which have defied public outcry against them, as well as efforts (sincere and sham) to contain them. They include bad governance, corruption, armed robbery, electoral fraud and thuggery, extortion by Nigerian policemen, examination malpractices, cultism, hired assassinations, kidnapping and abduction, human trafficking, drug trafficking and abuse, artificial scarcity of petroleum products, sectarian crises, terrorism, ritual killings, and traffic violations. If, by dint of Ekweremadu’s suggestion, these are also legalized merely because it has become impossible to stop them, one can only imagine the outcome.
As a lawyer and legislator, Senator Ekweremadu should be acquainted with the role of the law in society. Generally, the law is meant to regulate human behaviour, laying down principles and guidelines for good and acceptable human conduct and making provisions for the prohibition and punishment of acts of deviation. Prof Roscoe Pound’s Sociological School of Legal Thought postulates that “law is an instrument for social engineering”. Engineering ensures the production, construction and reconstruction of equipment and structures that beautify and better society, and not equipment and structures that deface the environment.
Largely, law flows from customs and traditions which are the accepted way of life of a people or community. I believe that, as an Igbo man, Senator Ekweremadu is well aware that the customs and traditions of Ndi-Igbo abhor prostitution. We should not copy from other climes practices which offend our cultural and traditional values. Furthermore, the law could also be a reflection of positive developments in society; for instance, the Nigerian Evidence Act was recently amended to allow the admissibility of electronic documents, among other innovations in the field of evidence. Can we regard the legalization of prostitution by some Western countries as worthy of emulation?
Social vices and abominable acts which are condemned by decent members of society are usually legislated against. For example, the true African culture abhors same sex marriage, sodomy, lesbianism, homosexuality and other unnatural and bestial forms of sexual relationship. They are anathema in the typical African society. Despite the negative influence of the morally debased Western culture, decent men and women of Africa still reject these depraved forms of sexual behaviour.
Prostitution is referred to as “the oldest profession”, yet it has never been regarded as a reputable practice, even though both the disreputable and supposedly reputable patronize its purveyors. In Africa, no woman (even the promiscuous) takes kindly to being addressed as a prostitute. Most prostitutes ply their trade under the cover of darkness, secretly and with false identities and loathe being identified as such. They never disclose their real business to their kith and kin, and most times claim a legitimate trade as a smokescreen. Despite the fact that Nigerian prostitutes, influenced by their Western counterparts, recently demanded some rights and respect, the profession is still a disrespectful and depraved one. Prostitutes lack manners and evince criminal and violent tendencies. The unwavering resolve of some women to practise prostitution cannot be a ground for the legalization of the disreputable trade. The law should not be used to give legitimacy to practices and trades which strike at the moral fibre of society.
It is better to imagine the unwholesome outcome of the legalization of prostitution. Licensed prostitutes, either as a group or individually, would be at liberty to advertize their trade and seek new members in the news media. Nothing will stop them from opening “schools of prostitution” and floating their own “churches” and “mosques”. Its legalization will amount to the legalization of adultery and fornication, and embolden lesbians, homosexuals and pornographers to demand a similar treatment. If prostitution is legalized, how can a decent parent dissuade a child who has shown disposition towards it or reprimand a licentious child? How effective will its regulation be, mindful that decent professions and trades are hardly ever regulated effectively in Nigeria?
Undoubtedly, Senator Ekweremadu’s bizarre suggestion cannot represent the views of members of his constituency. The mere thought of legalizing prostitution, let alone carrying it out, is repugnant to nature, natural law, divine law, ecclesiastical law, morality and good conscience. It is anathema to Christianity and Islam, and forbidden by African traditional religion. Let us not follow climes or cultures which are bereft of any moral and religious values. I want to assume that the suggestion was a slip of tongue. But Sigmund Freud in his depth psychology said that slips of tongue reveal subconscious feelings and thoughts. Therefore, I respectfully urge the learned Senator to purge himself of that revolting idea, and also advise the National Assembly to expunge the suggestion from their records and regard same as not having been made.