Decriminalise Sex Work Now!
On the 26th and 27th November 2009, SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) and SANAC (South African National Aids Council) hosted a consultation meeting on sex work and the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Fifty delegates representing sex worker organisations, human rights advocates, public health researchers, government and the media attended. You can dowload the executive summary and the full report here.
June - July 2009 was an important window of opportunity for advocacy on the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa. The South African Law Reform Commission has released its Discussion Paper on "Adult Prostitution" and invited the public to give input on the topic. A number of South Africans engaged with this process and made their voices heard.
The Law Commission has suggested four options to sex work and law in South Africa:
- Total criminalisation of sex work (South Africa's current position)
- Partial criminalisation
- Non-criminalisation (the same as decriminalisation of sex work where sex work and related activities are no longer a crime)
Many women's and human rights advocates argued that the only legal option that will respect and protect the human rights of sex workers is non-criminalisation. Sex workers are daily subjected to violence from clients, the police and their boyfriends and have no legal recourse. Sex workers find it hard to access legal, social and health services because of the stigma that attaches to sex work and make service-providers unwilling to assist sex workers.
Johannesburg Sex Workers Speak Out
A number of sex workers in Johannesburg have given submissions to the Law Commission drawing on their experiences of the law, the police and their job as sex workers.
A writing workshop was organised by Sisonke (Johannesburg) and the Wits Writing Centre and supported by the Reproductive Health & HIV Research Unit (RHRU) and the Tswaranang Legal Advocacy Centre. Below are personal stories by sex workers.
Submissions by sex workers:
- Busie’s Story
- Felicia’s Story
- Muchaneta's Story (The Shona version is available here )
- Suzan’s Story
Organisations and Individuals Add their Voices
In addition, a number of civil society organisations and individuals wrote to the Commission to support decriminalisation. Some of the submissions are accessible here:
- Submission by SWEAT – click here
- Submission by Sisonke - click here
- Submission by the Tswaranang focusing on gender based violence - click here
- Submission by the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) Law and Human Rights Technical Task Team – click here
- Submission by Marlise Richter on the public health implications of the on-going criminalisation of sex work– click here
- Submission by Chesa Bodin and Marlise Richter on criminal law and sexual morality – click here
- The South African Law Reform Commission’s Discussion Paper on Adult Prostitution (300 pages) – click here
- The South African Law Reform Commission’s summary of the Discussion Paper on Adult Prostitution (11 pages) – click here
- The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) produced a user-friendly booklet on the Discussion Paper and the main issues that pertain to it. You can access it here
- “Human Rights are for Everyone: Why Sex Work should be decriminalised in South Africa” - A booklet setting out public health and human rights arguments for the decriminalisation of sex work. Click here
- A PowerPoint presentation highlighting the main issues on the legal reform process and how sex work is approached by South Africa's National AIDS Plan – click here
- The National Strategic Plan 2007 – 2011 (South Africa's National AIDS Policy) – click here