By Vuvu Vena, Daily DispatchPhoto: Masked sex worker rights organisations around East London called for police protection and an end to police abuse on Saturday during International Sex Worker Rights Day.
Marking International Sex Worker Rights Day, members and representatives of sex worker rights organisations across the country marched to police stations calling for an end to the violence experienced by sex workers at the hands of police.
In East London, close to 150 sex workers and representatives from the Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) and Sisonke – a national sex workers’ movement – marched to the Fleet Street police station.
The group presented a memorandum of grievances to a police representative. They demanded that police stop:
- Publicly humiliating sex workers;
- Targeting and profiling sex workers in a degrading manner;
- Demanding sexual favours in exchange for not being arrested;
- Harassing and unlawfully arresting them;
- Detaining them in inhumane conditions;
- Beating and raping them while in detention;
- Refusing HIV-positive detainees access to their treatment; and
- Searching them and using the condoms they find on them as proof they are breaking the law.
Similar protests took place in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Rustenburg, and Louis Trichardt.
“The criminalisation of sex work forces sex workers to live in fear of police who harass and abuse them with impunity.
“Sex workers are being arrested and their rights are being violated for doing work that supports their families,” the organisations said in a media statement. In the lead up to the 2010 Fifa World Cup Sweat had become vocal in the call for the decriminalisation of sex work.
Sally-Jean Shackleton, director of Sweat, said: “In South Africa sex work is completely criminalised; anything relating to that is criminalised. “What we need to do is address the stigma.”
Shackleton said the organisation supported the decriminalizing of sex work and the formation of protective legislation for sex workers.
Police spokesperson Captain Stephen Marais said they had received the petition and it would be forwarded to the relevant people for attention. Asked how big a problem sex workers were in East London; Marais said: “We don’t have a serious problem with sex workers in East London.”
[This news article was originally sourced from the Daily Dispatch newspaper, on Monday March 5, 2012 (see attachment below for the PDF version of this article)]
Here are more photos of the Fleet Street Police Station march (East London) taken by Mickey Meji, SWEAT's Networking and Parliamentary Liaison Officer: