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Press release from the Scarlet Alliance (adapted)

Experts from a dozen countries, meeting in Sydney last week to learn of the gains since decriminalisation of sex work in NSW in 1995, were dismayed at the massive threat to the world-leading law.

Open Society Foundations, Scarlet Alliance and Sex Worker Outreach Project attracted nearly 50 sex workers, community leaders, human rights activists, advocates and politicians from Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and Europe in a four day event planned to take the best of NSWs model to the world.

The meeting collectively expressed its shock that the NSW government would think of removing decriminalisation of sex work through a sex industry law review process. The delegates were unanimous in their call to NSW Government to maintain its world leading and highly successful decriminalisation of sex work approach.

The delegates spoke of the abuses against sex workers in their home countries, much of it at the hands of the police.

“Sex workers have been saying for years: 'Decriminalisation is the best form of regulation for sex workers'.Decriminalisation has delivered successful health outcomes and removed corruption from the sex industry in NSW. But the Liberal government are proposing a return to the bad old days,“ Janelle Fawkes CEO of Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, said. “Delegates from eleven countries have now come to Sydney to learn about how they can decriminalise sex work in their countries.”

Executive Director of SWOP NSW, Kylie Tattersall apologised to the international guests, “It is a great shame that delegates have travelled from 11 countries hoping to learn from the great gains of decriminalisation in the NSW sex industry, and to have to tell them the government are talking about taking decriminalisation away. It has been disappointing to campaigners who had looked to NSW as a hope for sex work in their own countries.”

“In Canada we are in court fighting for decriminalisation and we have come to Sydney to learn from the NSW experience.” said the Canadian sex worker delegates.

Currently the only jurisdictions with decriminalised sex work are NZ and NSW. Both have been praised in relation to their sex work legislation internationally, including in the recent UN report into Sex work, HIV and the Law.

Moving away from punitive laws that criminalise sex work has been a characteristic of sex work law reform in Commonwealth Countries in the last 40 years. All states in Australia have considered decriminalisation, with ACT and Tasmania adopting large swathes of the approach. South Australia is also looking closely at such laws.

Decriminalisation means the removal of criminal laws, including police regulation of sex work. Sex work is then regulated like any other business through local councils, planning laws, OH&S guidelines, Workcover NSW and the ATO. Sex workers can access police in the event of a crime without fear of arrest or harassment. “It was great to see how the police can work with sex workers as opposed to being perpetrators of abuse, as we have seen in South Africa.” Stacey-Leigh Manoek, Women’s Legal Centre, South Africa.

“Our Commonwealth countries adopted colonial laws, and sex workers in Commonwealth countries are united in trying to overturn them. We have achieved that to a degree in NSW and NZ. These Commonwealth jurisdictions are leading the world with some of the best law reform.” Catherine Healy from New Zealand Prostitutes Collective said. “Decriminalisation is a living example of the solution not the problem” agreed Anna Pickering, NZPC.

Support also came from the country where most of the Commonwealth laws originated: Niki Adams a spokesperson from the English Collective of Prostitutes said “As one of the longest standing sex worker organisations campaigning on decriminalisation since 1975 we call on the NSW government to maintain decriminalisation.”

"The meeting is taking place a month after the joint meeting of Commonwealth Ministers of Foreign Affairs adopted a recommendation that calls on heads of governments to undertake steps to repeal all discriminatory laws that hamper effective HIV response. Repeal of discriminatorily laws is the best way to fight the HIV epidemic." stated Olga Szubert from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

“As Scotland prepares itself to host the Commonwealth Games 2014, we urge members of Scottish Parliament to consider the benefits and protections associated with decriminalisation.” Luca Stevenson, founder of Sex Worker Open University said. “Legislative frameworks, such as the Swedish model which criminalise our clients, fail to protect us.”

Other countries spoke of the human rights and public health issues they experience as a result of criminalization of sex work. What they had in common was they were all fighting for decriminalisation and had looked to NSW and New Zealand as beacons of hope.

"NSW is an example to the World" stated Duduzile Dlamini, a sex worker activist from the Sisonke Movement. "We came to NSW to experience decriminalisation, something we are calling for in our country."

"In India the sex worker community is strengthened, empowered and collectivised to access our human rights, but we are not able to stop the raids and violations by police or government.” Minakshi Kamble from VAMP Sangli, India said. “We hope India will adopt this model and protect our human rights."

“Decriminalisation is a win-win situation for everybody" Maria Stacey from SWEAT, South Africa urged the conference. “It has the best possible outcomes for all parties, including sex workers, the broader community, and government.”

Australian sex workers will continue to campaign to maintain decriminalisation in New South Wales, and have similar laws introduced across the country.

“Decriminalisation means I can own my own home” Cameron Cox, a NSW sex worker said. “Decriminalisation allows me to feel a part of society.”

"South Australian sex workers have long been envious of decriminalisation, and are and are working towards gaining such laws in our state.” Tarkwin Coles, from Sex Workers Action SWAGGERR in Adelaide concluded. “We are shocked that NSW would consider abandoning human rights in favour of a legislative system with no benefits".

[This press release was received from the Scarlet Alliance- the Australian Sex Workers Association: Sydney: International Conference Delegates Urge NSW to Maintain Decriminalisation of Sex Work ]

Published in Decriminalisation

By Jenna Praschma, SWEAT Acting Advocacy Manager

A recent Eyewitness News (EWN) article online, entitled "CT Cops raid 'human trafficking' den," has once again highlighted the misconceptions surrounding sex work and the damage that such inaccurate reporting can cause to related human rights issues.

The raid on a Cape Town brothel last week - the result of a Hawks 'sting' operation - resulted in two arrests, one of whom was reported to be a victim of human trafficking. The woman in question, however, gave no indication to her legal representative that she was trafficked, and is in fact in South Africa on a valid asylum seeker permit.

In addition, if the woman was trafficked, then arrest and detention for four days is no way to rescue someone already in distress.

Stacey-Leigh Manoek of the Women's Legal Centre, who provided legal assistance to the two women, said, “The police officers detained both women in the police cells. If indeed she was trafficked, surely detention should not be regarded as being rescued. This is a clear indication of how the conflation between trafficking and sex work has violated fundamental human rights. It will only result in further victimising of marginalised communities.”

Issues of human trafficking, asylum seekers and other human rights situations are often conflated with sex work. In reality, such issues are only exacerbated by the current legal system in which voluntary adult sex work is criminalised.

It is for this reason that SWEAT calls for the decriminalisation of adult sex work. In a decriminalised system, regulated by laws similar to those governing other professions, brothels would be a safer environment for all involved. Working hours, working conditions, age restrictions, occupational health standards, access to sexual and reproductive health facilities and rights would all be supported by a legal framework and a right to access justice without fear of reprisal or stigma.

Decriminalising sex work would make sex work visible and thus accessible by civil society organisations and state players, safeguarding all involved from the abuses that are occurring currently.

Accurate and sensitive reporting would also go a long way to ensuring that these diverse human rights issues are addressed individually and appropriately.

The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) offers all journalists reporting on sex work a Media Pack covering the legal and social facts surrounding sex work. Please contact 021 448 7875 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

Published in SWEAT Press Releases

By Ayanda Mkhwanazi, Health-e

Seven out of every ten sex workers have been abused by police officials. A survey done by the Women’s Legal Centre, shows that sex workers report having been threatened with arrest or forced to sleep with police officials in exchange for their freedom.

“We are being harassed by the police and they are using by-laws on us. Right now thugs are taking advantage of us because of the bad relationship between ourselves and the police”, says one sex worker, describing how the continued criminalisation of sex work is affecting them.

Another sex worker spoke of how she was detained by the police when she was pregnant. Being HIV-positive, she was forced to default on her medication to prevent her from transmitting the infection to her unborn child

“The worst thing for me was being denied my ARV’s when I was on PMTCT (prevention of mother to child HIV transmission programme). I was pregnant and denied this treatment for the whole weekend. I felt it is the worst thing because it was about the child inside of me who could have gotten infected”, she said.

During a sex workers’ symposium in Johannesburg this week, sex workers continued to express their dissatisfaction with the police, saying police brutality is rife within their industry. Amidst the call for sex work to be decriminalised, sex workers are also calling on police officers to stop abusing them. They say they cannot enjoy equal human rights as enshrined in the constitution.

A study by the Women’s Legal Centre confirms that police officials are the primary abusers of sex workers.

“Seven out of ten sex-workers that approached us reported police abuse. And it was around assault, bribery, harassment, sexual assault and verbal assault... bad conditions in the cells just grave and severe human rights violations. And, what is also alarming, is that many of these violations occur around other police officers and they stand by and witness this”, says Stacey-Leigh Manoek of the Women’s Legal Centre.

Manoek says in many instances, in exchange for their freedom, sex workers are often left with the choice of sleeping with the police for free.

“What we found is that almost one in six of the sex workers who approached us had been physically or sexually assaulted. Many sex workers reported that when approached by police officers, they are threatened with arrest or they are told: ‘If you give me sex and money I will release you’. There are sex workers who have reported rapes and are afraid to lay the complaint against the officer because of the intimidation.

One sex worker told us that she was picked up by a police officer, taken to a dark alley and brutally raped. And she said she just begged him to please put on a condom and he asked: ‘You are a prostitute, what do you know about condoms?’, says Manoek.

But the violation of sex workers’ rights doesn’t end with the police. In some instances, they are also denied access to basic health care services. Linda Dumba, a sex worker operating in Limpopo, says the treatment they receive from nursing staff at clinics is appalling.

“I once got to a clinic... I had an STI and I was explaining how I was feeling and she (the nurse) told me: ‘You come all the way from Zimbabwe and now you are giving us problems. You cannot even explain how you are feeling. How am I supposed to help you?’ I was trying to explain in English and I speak Shona. They speak another language. She ended up calling the other nurses. I felt embarrassed that every nurse knows why I am here”, Dumba says.

Meanwhile, the Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Task Force’s (SWEAT) Dr Gordon Isaacs says the health of sex workers will continue to be under threat, unless the profession is decriminalised in South Africa.

“In pockets of the provinces, health care providers may be prejudicial. They might not provide the proper health services, for example, shame the sex worker and say she is HIV-positive. They may, for example, discriminate against treatment of a sex worker if they come for the fourth time because of an STI infection. We’ve had reports where the nursing system says they are not prepared to treat you”, Isaacs says.

Isaacs says these are challenges that SWEAT will fight to overcome. He says SWEAT will continue to advocate for the decriminalisation of sex work, especially to get sex workers protected against police brutality.

[This news article was sourced from Health-e: Police brutality still very rife – sex workers. And to listen to the podcast click here.]

Published in News

By Kgomotso Matsunyane and Oratile Moseki

It is time to move on and consider the evidence on sex work. We are disappointed to note that the ANC Women’s League has decided to retract what appeared to be support for the decriminalisation of sex work, stating that “more engagement” on the issue was needed.

While respecting their decision, SWEAT and our decriminalisation supporters say it’s about time the controversies plaguing the issue were dealt with.

There is a shift in focus towards evidence that supports total decriminalisation, and we say that at the heart of these issues are sex worker voices, choices and needs.

This information is supreme in that it comes from the experiences of the sex workers themselves.

It is a little known fact that the ANC first seriously considered options to legalise sex work 18 years ago in 1996, when “decriminalisation” or alternatively “legalisation of sex work” was discussed. si sex workers

The issue proved too controversial to decide upon and has evolved into a call for the “dignity of women” as articulated in the ANC gender discussion document.

Controversies around women’s issues, gender and economic inequalities are not uncommon and come with the territory.

They should not be feared by the ANCWL.

In all such cases strong and brave leadership is needed to defend women’s rights and will be needed here in order to move beyond the impasse of 1996.

The ANCWL has such leaders: during Cosatu Gender Conference deliberations in March, Women’s League President Angie Motshekga spoke out on radio and in session saying women must discuss the issues that affect them, no matter how controversial they are.

The ANCWL has come one step closer to empowering women by acknowledging that criminalising sex workers does not work.

Now is the time to move beyond that. We can’t afford to wait another 18 years.

Yes, we agree with the ANCWL that it is time to engage. It is time to engage sex workers who can and do speak for themselves and are completely capable of knowing what is in their best interests, and of making decisions about their lives.

This is a fundamental right that we build our argument on. Sex workers are family members, parents, churchgoers and community leaders.

Partial criminalisation, in which the client is criminalised and not the sex workers, is a law reform which is based on the assumption that women are incapable of making decisions about their lives; that they need to be “rescued”.

It is a law reform option that totally objectifies women, while completely disregarding their agency. In this sense it is worse than criminalisation, where although considered a crime, at least the law acknowledges that sex workers are capable of choosing to do it. Taking the views of the sex workers out of the equation provides the most demeaning legal view of women and reinforces patriarchal control of women’s choices and bodies.

If the ANCWL wants to empower women, to challenge patriarchy, to show that women are just as capable as men of designing and deciding their own destinies, it certainly should not support partial criminalisation.

Criminalisation of sex work, which has been in place for 55 years and is founded on “moral” values with little evidential support, has crippled any traction on the issue.

In an interview recently, Motshekga admitted their reluctance has been as a result of league members not knowing what the implications of law change would be (The Star Monday June 18, 2012, “Searching for Common Ground”).

Moral views without any basis in fact are dangerous and South Africans know this first hand from our experience of apartheid, for instance, which was a policy decision rooted in morality and beliefs without basis. We have moved on from there, and have since made decisions in spite of the controversy surrounding them.

So, what is the evidence?

Let us consider two common concerns to illustrate our point.

The first is the belief that decriminalising sex work will lead to an increase in the numbers of sex workers, particularly of younger women. There is no evidence to show that decriminalising sex work has any effect on the numbers of sex workers.

In fact, no legal system at all has been shown to do this.

Research in Australia, where in some states sex work is legalised, in another it is criminalised and in one other decriminalised, there is no difference in the percentage of sex workers in relation to the general population. Research from New Zealand shows that after sex work was decriminalised in 2003, there has not been a significant increase in the numbers (Basil Donovan, et al., The Sex Industry in Western Australia: A Report to the Western Australia Government vii, 6, 9 [2010]).

The other common fear is that decriminalising sex work will lead to higher rates of trafficking.

This too has been shown not to be the case. Firstly it must be said that sex work and trafficking are not the same thing. Sex work is adult, consensual and done in private.

Trafficking has to do with forced work and exploitation. A five-year review of decriminalisation in New Zealand has shown no evidence of an increase in trafficking, or of more under-age sex workers (New Zealand Ministry of Justice, ‘Review of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003’, May 2008.)

Other such research also exists.

The fact is, sex workers don’t want crime just as much as the next person, and by decriminalising it, sex workers can openly report crimes such as trafficking and child sexual exploitation without fearing prosecution.

In no other legal system is the opportunity for sex workers to expose crime as great as it is in decriminalisation.

SWEAT encourages policymakers to use five key criteria when considering any sex work law or policy. We believe we can agree on these.

The first thing to consider when reviewing a possible law is whether it protects sex workers from police abuse. Secondly, does the law make sex workers vulnerable to labour exploitation?

Thirdly, does it make it difficult for sex workers to exit the industry freely? Fourthly, can sex workers access respectful health care and other services?

And finally, can the police tackle real crimes like trafficking and child exploitation effectively, and can sex workers report them?

There is more evidence, and a lot of experience in the area to guide our lawmakers.

There is no better time than now.

Matsunyane is a SWEAT Board Member and Moseki is Advocacy & Human Rights Defence Manager at SWEAT

[This news article was sourced from IOL News: SWEAT wants women's league a stand]

Published in SWEAT Press Releases
Friday, 29 June 2012 13:18

SA sex workers plea for equality

By Sibongakonke Mama, of IOL News

Sex workers say there will be major benefits if the industry is decriminalised and that they would be entitled to the same rights as those in other areas of employment.

In addition, they say relations with the police would improve and that they would be more likely to report abuse. SA also needs to accept, they say, that prostitution is a reality that isn’t going to disappear.

Duduzile Dlamini, 35, who has been a sex worker for almost 10 years, said decriminalisation would help rid the country of human trafficking.

“It’s not going anywhere. Decriminalisation will assist in improving the industry. We know and see a lot but can never report it. It will allow us to report underage sex workers and trafficking without fear of arrest,” said Dlamini.

Lloyd Rugara, a 32-year-old gay sex worker who was held hostage in an upmarket suburb in the city for six months, said he wanted his work to be recognised as a job like any other to protect sex workers from similar ordeals.

“They threatened to kill me if I didn’t take the drugs. I was forced to have sex with all those men, I don’t even remember how many, while the man who hired me watched on a hidden camera,” said Rugara.

Dlamini said decriminalisation would also ensure that sex workers were afforded human rights which, she says, have been violated.

In addition, those working in brothels would be able to go to the CCMA should they be unfairly dismissed and would also be entitled to maternity leave and overtime, Dlamini said.

Oratile Moseki, advocacy manager for the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat), said decriminalisation was the only way to go.

“It’s not the magic pill that will solve everything. But other states and countries, like New South Wales and New Zealand, have shown that decriminalisation is the only system that improves relations between sex workers and police.

“Health outcomes in general, under decriminalisation, are better. It motivates brothel owners to hold high health standards and ensure that sex workers practice safe sex without any inhibitions,” said Moseki.

[This news article was sourced from IOL News: SA sex workers plea for equality]

Published in News
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 15:19

Searching for common ground

By Janet Smith, The Star

Sex workers have a champion in ANC Women’s League president Angie Motshekga. But that doesn’t mean decriminalising their activities will be on the table at the party’s national conference in December.

Reports have suggested the league would make a strong case for tax-paying prostitutes at Mangaung, but Motshekga says this is not necessarily so.

Instead, decriminalising sex work will stay on its radar, but cannot be taken forward until everyone agrees – and the league is “not there yet”.

At the moment, says Motshekga, they would “not be able to fight successfully for it”, even though it’ll be up for discussion at the party’s policy conference at Gallagher Convention Centre at the end of the month.

The issue of sex work popped up, quite surprisingly, in the league’s gender policy discussion document released last month, which was prepared for Gallagher.

Proposals taken up at that gathering are expected to be confirmed at Mangaung in December, so it’s serious business.

But Motshekga emphasises that prostitutes weren’t given more than “two paragraphs”.

“It’s not something we would commonly discuss, but it was strengthened by us showing an interest because of concerns raised around women and health. Our understanding was deepened when Sweat (the Cape Town-based Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) said, ‘We see you have taken an interest’, and the women’s league said: ‘We do, but we do not have the depth.’ They gave us that depth.”

The SA Law Reform Commission has been investigating what to do with prostitution for an astonishingly long time, but there have only ever been three choices. Sex work can stay illegal as it is now, or it can be regulated or decriminalised. The league doesn’t pitch one way or the other, but says it’s looking to “embrace the dignity of women”.

“What I expect at the policy conference is a huge reaction from the men and women from the ANC,” says Motshekga.

“But so far we know that even the women have been taken aback – our own women. Many of them are not ready, because they say they are not sure of the implications.

“They want to be assured that we would not be creating another form of decadence. Those who don’t want this would argue that we supported termination of pregnancy, and now it’s creating problems.

“There are no parallel support programmes, so the women in the league are using this to say: ‘Yes we’ll take it up, but we do not think it will win.’”

It may sound as if the president of the league is taking the route of least resistance. But Motshekga – who survived President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle last week as the minister of basic education – sounds buoyant.

She explains the democratic processes of the league and laughs lightly as she imagines ANC “senior officials being worried and asking: ‘Where does this come from, and why are you raising it?’”

Prostitution has been illegal in SA for more than 50 years. But, ultimately, “there hasn’t been enough time to canvass adequately for (decriminalisation)… there’s not enough groundwork to say what is the alternative”, Motshekga says.

“We might say, ‘Yes we agree with you on principle’, but there are those who feel worried. Would we not be encouraging young girls to become interested in sex work?”

The issue of decriminalising prostitution has shifted the league a little more into the spotlight – a place it hasn’t occupied for years, possibly since the rape trial of President Jacob Zuma six years ago. He was acquitted.

And even if its motives were, perhaps, misunderstood on that one, now is a crunch moment for the league, which has been criticised for seemingly refusing to take the party to task on difficult issues. It’s just been too quiet for too long.

Motshekga agrees. She feels the time is now ripe to step up. Even she is growing weary of the women’s voice being hushed within the party. And after the league’s national executive committee meeting in Boksburg last month, she spoke about “the elephant of patriarchy” being “all over”.

She told journalists after that meeting: “As women, especially women in the ANC, which is very powerful and can shape the thinking of government, we need to push boundaries to ensure women’s issues are thought about at every level.”

The organisation itself, says Motshekga, needs to be pushed.

“We have been having capacity problems, and we need to sort that out to be able to go and report what has happened immediately after things happen. We inherited a very weak structure for what we wanted to do. We wanted to build solid structures in every ward so that we would be able to take up women’s battles at grassroots level, so we have now been spending lots of time going to provinces, assessing, building proper branches which are functional to do that essential below-the-radar work.”

And it is that below-the-radar work that is most critical. It was all very well, says Motshekga, to see members in their women’s league uniforms at The Spear protest outside the Goodman Gallery, but that’s “not really the point”.

The gender policy document captures the degree of trouble for SA, hardened by a fresh report on women in the world that shows that we are the fourth-worst place for women to live.

Canada, Germany, Britain, Australia and France are the top five in a perceptions poll of 370 gender specialists conducted by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. At the other end were India, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Mexico.

It makes sense, then, that the league’s document is not at all happy about how little progress has been made here towards the gender equality envisaged in 1994. The league’s constituency is deeply unhappy.

At least 28 percent of women are unemployed and women earn less, while a mere 10 percent of CEOs and board chairs are women, with less than 20 percent in executive management.

The league wants government job creation to aim at least at a 50/50 split. It wants women to get 50 percent of contracts from the state and for this, it insists upon proper training – even an institute that will give women the edge they so desperately need.

From Motshekga’s point of view, this is all very well, but it’s not only about the law. Women struggle even at home, which is why she’s so insistent on breaking down the patriarchy that saw us nudged into such a uncomfortable position on that latest poll.

“It is a very tedious exercise to get the branches going and to get everyone in those branches to buy in, but we’re finding it does pay dividends and some have been successful. If there’s a case of rape, our women will be there. If a mother has passed away and her family have been struggling alone for three months, we expect our branches to be there.

“Especially in Mpumalanga, we’re finding that women within wards are taking up those kinds of daily battles, whereas in North West, we have had setbacks because we just didn’t have branches which could take up any campaign reports. “The information we were receiving was not very truthful, and there was a huge fallout with leadership in the provinces, so that kind of thing means it takes a lot to re-establish a structure.”

The policy conference has helped the league to focus.

“We know we must keep clear on broad issues about policy, advocacy and governance, but sometimes our relationships with other organisations have been a bit ad hoc because of capacity. It actually helps us to work with other organisations because then we do not have to invest lots of resources. Campaigns can be led by others and then we can do our part.

But Motshekga is worried that the league is not attracting highly skilled women. That, she says, has got to change.

Perceptions have got to be “fixed up” so that professionals – “lawyers, economists, such like” – are not put off by a women’s agenda that seems too closely tied to the mother party. “We know that the economic empowerment of women is just not getting off the ground. The skills revolution is not happening. And we could also see how much more powerful women could be when the skilled stood up for them, like it was around the Traditional Courts Bill.

“We needed those independent thinkers and women in law who said: ‘Please wake up, there’s a problem here.’

“We should be able to work above our political divides to really raise alarm bells. It’s not about party politics. It’s about women. And we know that because we’re in the ANC, in the majority in government, we can push for something to be taken to cabinet and be urgently prioritised. That’s our advantage.”

[This news article was sourced from IOL News, Searching for common ground.]

Published in News

By Khuthala Nandipha, Daily Dispatch

The African National Congress Women’s League is officially backing calls for sex work to be legalised in South Africa.

The motion will be discussed at the ANC’s policy conference in June and national conference in Mangaung in December where the league hopes for a resolution to be passed. This follows the recent release of the league’s gender policy discussion document, which highlights the right for women to be sex workers without fear of the law and social stigma.

“We want a total decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa. The law treats prostitutes as criminals but does not treat their male clients with the same heavy-handedness.

“We want the ANC to support a position that will embrace the dignity of women,” said Hlengiwe Mkhize, ANCWL treasurer.

The move received support from former deputy minister of health, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge.

Currently the executive director of Embrace Dignity, an NGO addressing trafficking and sexual exploitation, Madlala-Routledge wrote in a recent article that while she doubted the ANC would call for total decriminalisation, there was merit in calling for the decriminalisation of selling, and not the buying, of sex.

“This position takes into account the underlying causes that drive women, mainly poor women, into prostitution …” she wrote.

Gender activists argue that criminalisation of sex work makes it difficult for sex workers to leave the industry because many have a criminal record which makes employers reluctant to give them work.

One 32-year-old East Londoner who became a sex worker 12 years ago, said women did not turn to sex work because they wanted to be aroused, but rather due to financial difficulties. The woman, who only has a Grade 11 education, is a divorcee and single mother to two children.

“All I have ever wanted was to go to school and become a social worker,” she said.

She is one of many women who turn to prostitution to make ends meet. Recent unemployment statistics show official unemployment among women stands at 28%. The woman said she made up to R1000 on a regular night and during the festive season or other holiday periods up to R3000.

She was married at 16 and moved to East London from the Transkei with her husband. But after three years of abuse and entrapment, she divorced him and got custody of her child who was just 11 months old.

She moved in with a friend. She had no idea that her friend was a sex worker until she followed her one night. A driver approached her and she learnt that in less than an hour she could make up to R150.

“The thought that by morning I could afford nappies, formula and vegetables motivated me throughout the gruesome process,” she said. “Of all the piece jobs I have done in-between prostitution , none have ever given me this much income.”

She has just received her Computer Literacy certificate and is currently studying for a certificate in Childhood Development. She plans to leave sex work soon and open a crèche in a rural area with the help of government funding and savings.

Considered one of the oldest professions in the world, prostitution was declared illegal in South Africa in 1957, but gender rights advocates maintain that if a person wants to buy or sell sex, this should be their choice.

In 2009, the Democratic Alliance’s Jack Bloom, spokesperson for DA Gauteng Health had said: “Decriminalising of sex work would be a grave mistake that would send the wrong signal to communities.”

However, the party has changed its tune. According to Mmusi Maimane, DA’s national spokesperson, the Alliance’s main concern is for every human being’s constitutional rights to be protected.

“Often prostitution is met with a lot of police brutality, so whatever needs to be done to end this violation, the DA is behind it.”

However, he added that the matter of decriminalisation should be resolved through public participation and in no other way. “People need to decide what kind of society they want to live in.”

Ntokozo Yingwana, advocacy officer for Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) said sex work was difficult, dangerous and not an easy decision to make. “So it’s not about making quick money, it’s about making a hard choice,” said Yingwana.

[This news article was sourced from the Daily Dispatch, 21 April 2012 edition. For a downloadable PDF version of this article, see below.]

Published in News

By Gloria Nakiyimba, RFI News

World politicians meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, have agreed on the need to repeal laws discriminating against HIV/Aids which they say have contributed to an increase in the rate of new infections.

MP's at the Inter Parliamentary Union assembly said laws that criminalize transmission of HIV, laws against sexual workers and those discriminating against sexual minorities need to be repealed.

Speaking during a panel discussion, Professor Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said “there is a fear that a still highly stigmatized condition such as Aids can, and will, fall out of the agenda of national and global leaders”.

Tlou said early signs of a decreasing commitment to Aids in the form of reduced funding for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support were worrying especially since the epidemic is far from being over.

She said where the law deepens social fractures and inequality, denies access to services and criminalizes those who need these services it becomes an obstacle to the Aids response.

In Uganda, the HIV and Aids Prevention and Control Bill 2010 was aimed at criminalising attempted transmission of HIV. The anti-homosexuality bill which remains on the shelves of parliament was identified as discriminatory and hampering the fight against HIV/Aids.

MP's called for zero discrimination against people living with Aids if the new campaign for zero new HIV infections and zero Aids related deaths is to be successful.

Tlou said UNAIDS was working with countries to introduce a programme to eliminate mother-to-child transmission to ensure that no child is born with the disease.

In 2009, the World Health Organization estimated there are 33.4 million people worldwide living with HIV/Aids, with 2.7 million new HIV infections per year and two million annual deaths due to Aids.

Ugandan MP Doctor Elioda Tumwesigy said 7,000 people are infected every day worldwide - half the number are women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Zimbabwean MP, Thabitha Khumalo said HIV/Aids infections remain high among prostitutes, gays and lesbians because they are stigmatized and discriminated against.

“The moment we discriminated against them, we are saying that they go underground and re-infect,’’ Khumalo observed. She said it was wrong for politicians to discriminate against sexual workers and sexual minorities.

“When we want votes we don’t know them as commercial sexual workers, we don’t know them as any different from the way others are living, but the moment we’ve been voted into power we now call them names,” she said.

She told participants that some male MP used the services of sexual workers and many prostitutes in Zimbabwe have been abused by the very police force that should protect them.

She added in some cases they are abused by the policemen who arrest them and force them into having unprotected sex or confiscate their condoms which has led to rise in the new infections among these groups of people.

Khumalo told delegates that for the last three months she has been walking the streets of Harare every night to encourage sexual workers to sign a petition against a law criminalizing prostitution in Zimbabwe.

Delegates agreed to increase the fight against HIV/Aids in the world, and to end discrimination.

[This news article was sourced from RFI News: Call for increased protection of homosexuals and prostitutes to stem spread of HIV/Aids]

Published in Decriminalisation

By Owen Bowcott, The Guardian

A series of gang attacks on brothels in east London has triggered calls for changes to the prostitution laws after victims who reported knifepoint robberies said they ended up being threatened with prosecution.

A police investigation has been launched as senior Labour and Conservative members of the London assembly and the English Collective of Prostitutes allege that violent crime is being given a lower priority than less serious sex offences.

The attacks highlight the growing debate over calls for New Zealand's pioneering decriminalisation of sex work to be considered – an approach recently supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

What is said by sex workers to be a spate of robberies – involving cash and jewellery – coincides with an increase in police raids on east London addresses being used as brothels before the 2012 London Olympics.

The first address targeted was in Barking, east London, on 6 December. A video showing five men apparently breaking into another house in the area being used by sex workers is also being studied by officers. The women who made the first complaint allege they recognise some of the gang members from the YouTube clip.

In a third attack, at a different address, a woman who worked as a maid at a brothel is alleged to have been raped by the gang. None of the victims there reported the offence for fear of being charged by officers with living off the proceeds of prostitution; the police say they are so far unaware of this incident.

The ECP said changes to the law, in response to fears over the forcible trafficking of foreign sex workers into Britain, have made it more difficult for women to work together in houses for safety.

A letter of complaint sent by Niki Adams, a leading ECP activist who works with Legal Action for Women, to the borough police commander in Barking last month, said the way the investigation into the first incident had been pursued had discouraged "sex workers from reporting attacks".

The letter continued: "The 6 December attack was at knifepoint and the women felt they had to try and protect themselves. They think the assailants may well be the same people who have robbed them before, who have got away with it, and so have returned and become more violent as they have got bolder.

"Targeting women for prosecution in this way undermines any attempts to catch those who attack and exploit sex workers … We are receiving reports of incidents where women have been attacked and their attackers have told them brazenly that they know women won't dare go to the police." Adams believes there may have been as many as 20 attacks in the area over the past two years.

The Metropolitan police confirmed it was aware of the 6 December attack and the YouTube video and is investigating whether the attacks are linked. "We can confirm that we were called to an alleged incident of aggravated burglary at an address in Victoria Road, Barking," a statement said.

"Patrolling officers arrived at the scene and were quickly accompanied by scene of crime officers and detectives from Barking and Dagenham CID. Detectives also visited the venue on a further occasion to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the incident.

"Unfortunately, those at the address were unwilling to substantiate the allegation or further assist with the investigation despite a number of attempts for them to do so. The case remains under investigation and should any further information come to light it will of course be vigorously pursued."

The force said "a notice has been served to the registered owner of the venue in Victoria Road under the auspices of section 33a of the Sexual Offences Act 1956. The notice formally notified the recipient that they were liable to prosecution should the premises in Victoria Road remain in use as a brothel".

Referring to the YouTube video, the police said: "We are looking to see if the attacks are linked. Officers take any such reports extremely seriously and actively encourage all members of the community, particularly those who may be vulnerable to such incidents, to come forward and contact police.

"Officers at Barking and Dagenham work hard to ensure that the borough remains a safe place for all residents. The welfare of victims remains our primary concern and we acknowledge that some members of the community are more vulnerable and susceptible to crime.

"We strive to encourage and support female victims and to assist us further we are in the process of launching a bespoke multi-agency victim care service. This will see female victims receiving the best possible support and will include fast-track referrals to housing and health professionals as well as Safer Neighbourhood reassurance intervention."

Prostitution itself is not illegal but associated activities – such as kerb crawling, placing advertising cards in phoneboxes and working in premises with more than one person available for paid sex – are outlawed.

Last November Simon Byrne, Acpo's lead officer on prostitution and sexual exploitation, suggested there was a need for a fresh look at the legal balance. Then deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester, Byrne is in the process of moving to the Met as assistant commissioner. "There is a great amount of academic research available, much of which supports the view that an alternative approach is needed," he wrote on his official Acpo blog. "An example would be the decriminalisation and regulation of brothels in Australia and New Zealand, not an answer to all of the related issues but certainly a solution to some.

"More of those involved in sex work in Australia and New Zealand can now access health services with ease, whilst maintaining more personal security in an emotive area for policing."

Another proponent of reform is Andrew Boff, a Conservative member of the London assembly. "The law is framed so as to put women [sex workers] into the most vulnerable position," he said. "The changes brought in by the last government seemed to [be derived from] the view that every single worker in the sex trade was trafficked. "People are not willing to come forward over these attacks. When they report them, the women themselves have had action taken against them. I'm compiling a report on the problem for Boris Johnson."

Len Duvall, the leader of the Labour group at the London assembly, said: "We need to examine in greater detail information and case studies from those countries that have sought to legalise prostitution, including the model put forward by New Zealand, especially if it provides a degree of protection for sex workers and reduces crimes associated with prostitution.

"Where brothels have not posed a problem to the wider community and there has been no evidence of sex trafficking, I have heard evidence that the police have taken an inconsistent and heavy-handed approach in dealing with sex workers. There is also evidence that crimes against sex workers are being ignored."

Earlier this month, Sheila Farmer, a sex worker who operated with other women out of shared premises, had charges of brothel-keeping against her dismissed at Croydon crown court. The Crown Prosecution Service said there had been no change in enforcement policy; the unexpected failure of a witness to appear led to the charge being withdrawn. Farmer said she had chosen to work with other women for safety because she had been attacked previously when working alone.

Nigel Richardson, the solicitor who represented her, said he was aware of another case in Surrey where women had reported an attack on their flat from a rival operation. "They were visited by two men who threatened the women and were pouring petrol around the place," he said.

"My client called the police. Officers intially took the attack very seriously but eventually arrested my client. The men were never brought to book for an assault but my client was prosecuted for running a brothel."

Tim Barnett, the British-born former New Zealand MP who pushed through his adopted country's decriminalisation legislation in 2003, was in London before Christmas where he briefed Boff and Duvall. "We said let's make the law the best to minimise harm," he said at the time. "We set up a review of the legislation. A number of people said the number of sex workers would rise.

"So we reviewed it after five years in 2008. The review didn't find any increase and there was an improvement in the relationship with the police. Sex workers were using their rights under the legislation to deal with poor-quality brothel owners or clients who had been behaving abusively."

[This news articles was sourced from The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jan/16/change-law-prostitutes-crime-violent?newsfeed=true]

Published in News
Monday, 12 December 2011 12:03

MP pushes legalisation of prostitution

An MDC-T legislator has vowed to continue pushing for the legalisation of prostitution and the inclusion of the "pleasure engineers'" rights in the country’s constitution.

Thabitha Khumalo, the MDC-T Member of Parliament for Bulawayo East, last week signed a petition calling for the decriminalization of the world’s oldest profession at an event said to have been attended by scores of working girls from the city.

“It (prostitution) is here to stay and we need to bite the bullet. Pleasure engineering did not begin in Bulawayo or Zimbabwe. It all began in the Garden of Eden and one of those pleasure engineers was Eve,” Khumalo told guest at the event.

“Who in their right mind will deny it? We will have to embrace it, whether we like it or not.”

Khumalo threatened to expose colleagues using the services of prostitutes if her campaign is not supported in Parliament. “Every time I get a chance to speak in Parliament I will speak of the decriminalisation of prostitution,” she said.

“If the calls are not heard then we will name and shame some ministers and other officials who have sought the services of pleasure engineers,” she said. Meanwhile working girls who attended the event organized by the Sexual Rights Centre blasted police for demanding free sex.

“They (police) love free rides because they carry guns and handcuffs. They take us to dark corners and take away our dignity and hard earned money,” one of the girls said. “Health workers too should stop discriminating us. As sex workers we should have labour rights.”

[This news article was sourced from NewZimbabwe.com http://www.newzimbabwe.com/news-6709-MP+pushes+legalisation+of+prostitution/news.aspx]

Published in News
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