Interpreting the law, the court declared that commercial sex work in Namibia is not illegal per se, but the legislative authority has made the activities around commercial sex work illegal (for example, one may not knowingly make a living from the proceeds of commercial sex work or one may not keep a brothel).
Commercial sex work is, therefore, analogous to handcuffing a snooker player’s hand behind his/her back but not prohibiting same from playing snooker.
It is common knowledge that poverty is the primary spur for sex work in Namibia.
The reasons often submitted in favour of decriminalising commercial sex work are, among others, that individuals should be afforded their freedom to engage in any trade, that the commercial sex work industry in its current form allows for the abuse of commercial sex workers and that that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) thrive as the industry is the unregulated.
Proponents of decriminalisation have gone as far as stating that a regulated commercial sex work industry would be beneficial in that “jobs” would be created for the many unemployed Namibians, and further, that government would be able to raise revenue in a form of tax.
The above argument unfortunately ignores the prevailing socio-economic circumstances in Namibia, as well as the welfare provisions in the Namibian Constitution, which government must afford all citizens.
We argue that the time is not ripe to decriminalise commercial sex work and that such decriminalisation would in any event fall short of the dictates of the country’s Constitution.
Instead, Government must be held to its constitutional mandate of creating a welfare state that Namibia was originally envisaged to be.
History does after all record that the vast commercial sex worker population in Havana, Cuba, prior to the fall of the Baptista regime, was significantly reduced after the formulation and adoption of robust agrarian reforms.
The Namibian government should similarly formulate and adopt policies that would yield tangible results in terms of poverty reduction and eventual eradication. Poverty, which is the root cause of commercial sex work in Namibia, should rather be addressed as opposed to decriminalising commercial sex work, an exercise that would bear detrimental societal effects.
Vincent Shimutwikeni and Tuhafeni Muhongo