By Alexandra Schwappach, IOL News"Enough is enough. I’m a human being”, “My body, my choice”, and “Change is possible” were some of the messages conveyed by placard-bearing sex workers who marched to the Bellville police station on Saturday.
The march, on International Sex Worker Rights Day, saw about 100 people gather to hand over a memorandum of grievances alleging abuse of sex workers by the police.
The march was one of five simultaneous national events, organised by the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) and Sisonke, the national sex workers movement. Others were in Johannesburg, Rustenburg, Louis Trichardt and East London.
The memorandum calls on the police to stop “targeting and publicly humiliating” sex workers, “harassing”, “beating”, “raping”, and illegally detaining or arresting them.
Also included in the memorandum were allegations police asked for sexual favours in exchange for not arresting sex workers, that sex workers were detained in inhuman conditions, that they were beaten and raped while in detention, and that those who were HIV-positive were denied access to treatment while in detention.
National co-ordinator of Sisonke, Kholi Buthelezi, told marchers at the start of the event that the police escorting them were not there to harm them, but to ensure their safety.
“Sometimes when sex workers see a police officer they get scared or angry,” she said. “We wanted them to know that these police officers were here to protect us.”
Sweat’s Tim Barnett said:
“The memorandum is meant to engage the police and ask them to work with sex workers, instead of hurting or abusing them.”
Nine years ago Barnett was part of a push in New Zealand that eventually went to parliament and saw prostitution decriminalised there. Since then, he said, crime and the number of sex workers on the streets had decreased there.
“For SA, the first step is getting the police to change their behaviour,” he said.
Zulu Zandile, who has been a sex worker for nine years, said they were fighting for recognition that sex work was “just like any other job”.
“Let us make a living to put food on the table, just like everybody else.” She hoped sex workers would be able to work hand in hand with police officers to stop the real crime – human trafficking.
[This news article was originally sourced from IOL News: Stop abusing us, sex workers tell cops]