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To highlight the physical and emotional violent impact of the criminalisation of the 250 000 plus sex workers in South Africa SISONKE- the national sex workers’ movement- will be hosting a series of events across 5 provinces (see events schedule below), leading up to the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers, on the 17th of December (this coming Saturday).

The abuse and murders of sex workers continue to go unnoticed. Some perpetrated by law enforcers themselves. “One night two police picked me up to [the] police station. One of them suggested that if I can have sex with them they will release me, of which I did”, said Pretty*, a Cape Town based female sex worker.

In a recent study conducted by the Women’s Legal Centre, 12% of sex workers in Cape Town reported having been raped by police, 46% threatened by police and 28% forced into sexual favours by police.

Even those cases that have been reported to the police often fall through the cracks of our criminal justice system on the grounds that the victim is a sex worker, and therefore classified as a criminal. “The prosecutor told me that I was wasting his time, and if I pursued this he would arrest me instead, because what I was doing was illegal”, Snowy*, a Hillbrow based transgendered sex worker, recalls her conversation with the prosecutor, following her opening up a case of rape and robbery against a client. The case was later dismissed.

The International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers, first celebrated in 2003, calls attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers as well as the need to remove the “stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by custom and prohibitionist laws that has made violence against us acceptable”, writes the Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA on their website.

“And that’s why we call for the decriminalisation of sex work, which is proven to protect sex workers, and promote their rights and improve relationships between them and the police”, added Sally-Jean Shackleton, the Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce director.

For more information on these events you can contact:
Kholi Buthelezi - Sisonke National Coordinator on (021) 448 7875/ 073 2479 623
Sally-Jean Shackleton – SWEAT Director on (021) 448 7875/ 082 330 4113

*Not her real name

Published in SWEAT Press Releases