MALTA DIARY: Time to legalise prostitution and end the sham?
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In 1968 Malta, together with the Republic of Ireland, was regarded as the most strait-laced country in Europe under the absolute influence and dominance of the Roman Catholic Church. Beach bikinis were banned and policemen raided beaches and made women wrap up in towels. Foreign magazines and newspapers were strictly censored – as were cinema films – and the rising popularity of the London newspaper ‘The Sun’ presented enormous problems with half the pages devoted to partially naked women, including the famous Page Three!
Any talk of sex among a group was greatly frowned upon. Famous anthropologist-author Desmond Morris who lived in Malta was banned from importing his own book ‘The Naked Ape’!
Time and tide wait for no man. It is now 2018 and today, 50 years later, Malta is the most advanced LGBTIQ country in Europe and one of the world leaders in the sector, allowing same-sex marriages and total legal and human rights for all LGBTIQ persons with strict legislation against discrimination.
Not only that, Malta is teeming with massage parlours, some offering legit health massage but the majority offering “other services” while Gentlemen’s Clubs abound, not offering full striptease but certainly scantily-clad pole dancers.
The more conservative elements began applying pressure on the police authorities, accusing them of turning a blind eye on prostitution being offered through massage parlours and finally, action had to be taken.
Certain organisations also linked such activities to human sex trafficking, blackmailing and forced coercion.
However, a contrasting lobby has also emerged calling for prostitution to be legalised and end the sham once and for all. As a small island and a central Mediterranean port Malta has always been tied to prostitution since pre-Roman times. However, later, this was crudely concealed in internationally-known Strait Street in Valletta, the Valletta, Marsa and Gzira waterfronts, the haunts of sailors and military personnel in general.
In recent weeks, a number of cases have now been dragged before the Law Courts after police raids on massage parlours.
One such case was in August earlier this year when the owner of a number of parlours and the four Colombian women working there admitted to using them for prostitution purposes.
The difference was the whole venture was being run on commercial lines. The women admitted to freely offering their services and were not trafficked, blackmailed or coerced. They were doing it because they wanted to do it. The arrangement was a profit-sharing scheme with the owner charging them rent for using premises and taking a cut from the supply of various “essentials”.
This followed a similar case a few weeks earlier involving the same set-up, the women coming from Eastern Europe to purposely work as prostitutes. One admitted to bad debts needing to be paid off and others admitted to wanting to earn money as they were unemployed back in their home country.
Now in November there has been a similar case. Three Central and South American women admitted to having used various massage parlours around Malta to ply their prostitution profession. Together with the owner they were given suspended prison sentences and the women ordered to be deported.
They were not trafficked, not forced, not blackmailed and not coerced. They did it because they wanted to do it to make money. At one parlour a packet of baby wipes was found containing €800 and another packet in another parlour contained €990.
Their defence lawyers stressed the fact they were treated well and not in any way bullied. The parlours had advertised their “masseuse services” extensively with a number of alluring photographs with the girls in their underwear and invitations “to meet the new arrivals”.
One of the lawyers stressed the time has come to put all this sham to a stop and legalise prostitution once and for all as long as the prostitutes did it absolutely on a voluntary basis from hygienic and clean parlours rather than soliciting in public on street corners.
I entirely agree. I hate to have to use it because it is probably the most saturated cliché in the world but yes, prostitution is the oldest profession in the world. It has always existed, continues to exist and will forever exist. It is useless trying to ignore it, conceal it, prohibit it, be uptight about it and find all kinds of excuses – including that of being humiliating not just to women but to males as well because nowadays male prostitution is just as rampant – as well as transsexual prostitution.
What I say is, end the sham once and for all and turn it into an inevitable fact of life.
“If you have rented it, put up with it”
If you have brought it on yourself, handle it because it was your choice.