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By James Apa Gumuno

MT. HAGEN, Papua New Guinea (September 13, 2000 – The National)---The question of legalizing prostitution has become a major national issue in recent weeks.

Churches, women groups and others have come out strongly against legalizing prostitution while school students have also been drawn into the arena to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the issue.

It became a main topic of a student debate by Grade 11 students at Mt Hagen Secondary High School last Friday.

The debate, which attracted the whole student body during lunch hour, was cheerful and serious as the government and opposition sides presented their views about the issue, which has become a matter of public concern.

Government spokesman, Nicholas Laki said that prostitution existed in the country over the last decade in urban centers and it is in the best interest of sex workers to legalizing it.

He added that it also provide employment opportunities for young girls and boys to make the income for themselves and family.

Mr. Laki stressed that if prostitution is legalized the rate of rape cases in the country would decline and also at the same time the fear of women being attack at night on streets and social clubs will also be reduced.

He added that legalizing prostitution will not spread HIV/AIDS but help those who wanted to have sex to a right place and have safe sex.

He said the sex trade is already spreading in the country and no matter how hard Christians, church groups and others try to stop it, they cannot because the people make a living out of it so the best way is to legalize it.

However, Joe Mank from the Opposition bench strongly opposed the idea saying, our country, is a Christian country and it would be against our Christian principles to legalize prostitution.

He said that as soon as prostitution is legalized many families would suffer the shame and embarrassment, adding, the father will go his way while mother goes the other direction followed by their sons and daughters.

It is immoral and not in the best interest of our society.

Mr. Mank deplored the possibility of legalizing prostitution saying, "why should we follow because other countries are doing it.

He said prostitution in other countries is legalized because they are well educated and know what is good and what is bad unlike our people.

He added that it was not the right time for the government to legalize prostitution when majority of the people are not aware of the advantage and disadvantage for it.

The judges awarded the debate to the opposition side with 68 points to 62.

According to their teacher Mr. Komia Tui, it was vital for the students to debate the issue and learn the good and bad effects of it for their personal benefit in the future.

He said if the students cannot talk about such issues in the classroom, they would not be able to handle such issues and protect themselves in public life.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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