South African Commission for Gender Equality Calls for Decriminalisation and Protection of Sex Workers RightsPublished on Friday, 31 May 2013 08:57
The South African Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has investigated the legislative response to sex work by examining evidence from countries where sex work has been decriminalised and by hearing the views of sex workers and other stakeholders.
It has concluded that the current legal regime in South Africa that criminalises sex work has failed sex workers and perpetuated substantive abuse of their constitutional rights to dignity; bodily and psychological integrity and the right to choose a legally regulated trade, occupation or profession. The Commission said it believes that sex work should be framed within the law as ordinary work and governed by existing labour and business laws that can prevent unsafe, exploitative and unfair business practices and undertaken to campaign for necessary legislative reform and to challenge instances of abuse and violation of the rights of sex workers.
At the same time it has stressed that abusive practices such as underage and coerced sex work should remain criminal offences and should be diligently investigated and prosecuted. According to the CGE shifting responses from the harassment and prosecution of sex workers towards the protection, respect and enforcement of the rights of sex workers is a significant shift that will require both new legislation and resources for training and capacity building within local law enforcement agencies if it is to be effective.
This is an important and welcome development, coming as it does from a country in which sex workers are highly vulnerable to HIV and human rights violations. Another very welcome development is that sex workers play an important role in South Africa’s human rights agenda now and can present information so persuasively.
Credit must also go to the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and to the Open Society Foundation and other civil society organisations that have supported South African sex workers to develop the knowledge and skills they need to advocate successfully for a legal framework that protects their human rights and increases access to healthy workplaces, to justice and to services. Cheryl Overs Senior Research Fellow Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights Monash University, Melbourne Australia
May 17 2010 South African Government Press Statement: http://allafrica.com/stories/201305161216.html