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Indian court recommends legalizing prostitution

If you can’t beat ‘em, regulate ‘em -- that’s the Indian Supreme Court’s take on the country’s illegal sex trade.  

The court’s advice came in response to an NGO’s public litigation regarding child trafficking in the country.  As of 2007, UNICEF estimates 2.4 million Indians were HIV-positive (with the high estimate ranging up to 3.2 million). The sex trade is at the center of the epidemic: reportedly, a young prostitute can charge a customer just over $2, while an older woman will only receive about 65 cents – and that figure usually drops if the prostitute demands the use of a condom.  And the youngest girls in the trade, forced into prostitution before 15, are at the greatest risk of contracting the virus – they work longer hours, serve more clients, and are more likely to work in multiple brothels.

A UNAIDS report issued a couple of weeks ago reports that efforts to control the spread of HIV has been effective, with HIV prevalence among female sex workers declining by more than half, from 10.3 percent to 4.9 percent, between 2003 and 2006. Still, as the court points out, there are an estimated 2 million female sex workers, and legalization would allow monitoring of the trade and further provision of medical aid.

As the judges asked, "When you say it is the world's oldest profession and you are not able to curb it by laws, why don't you legalise it?"

Photo: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

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Back when presidents gave the Nobel prize the respect it deserves

Megan McArdle links to an article from the Guardian archive, reporting on the awarding of the Nobel prize to Theodore Roosevelt on Dec. 11, 1906. Let's just say, they handled things a little differently back then:

The Prize was received by Mr. Peirce, the American Minister, in the Storthing, at half-past one this afternoon. The members of the Nobel Prize Committee were seated in front of Ministers. At the invitations of the President of the Storthing and the President of the Prize Committee, Mr Lövland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that the Peace Prize had been awarded to President Roosevelt, who had authorised the American Minister to receive it. [...]

"In handing the prize to the American Minister, the President asked him to take Mr. Roosevelt a greeting from the Norwegian people, and expressed the wish that Mr. Roosevelt might be able to do further work for the cause of peace in the future.

"Mr. Peirce, in thanking the Storthing for the award, said that any words of his were inadequate to express his deep emotion in receiving this distinguished testimony on behalf of President Roosevelt. He then read a message from President Roosevelt expressing deep thanks for the prize, and declaring that there was no gift he could appreciate more. The President adds that he has decided to use the prize to establish at Washington a permanent Industrial Peace Committee, a righteous peace in the industrial world being as important as in the world of nations."

Roosevelt didn't even come to pick up the award and didn't even send a high profile representative! Herbert Peirce was a third assistant secretary of state turned envoy extraordinary to Norway. I realize that transatlantic travel was trickier back then, but I can't help thinking from reading this and the amount of significance we attach to this prize has increased quite a bit over the years. Roosevelt was grateful for the recognition and the money, but it doesn't seem like anyone was too worked up about it. 

If we take the award for what it is, a recognition named after a dynamite tycoon given out by a group of Norwegian politicians with a questionable track record, all the sturm and drang of the last couple months starts to seem pretty ridiculous. The only reason that we're concerned about whether Obama has really earned this prize or whether it's appropriate for a war president to receive it (T.R. was no pacifist either) is because we've given this award talismanic significance that it doesn't really deserve. Just imagine that Obama has just won the "Parliament of Norway Prize for Extraordinary Statesmanship" then try to get emotional about it. Of course then Obama could have just had Barry B. White pick it up for him.