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Monday, 19 December 2011 09:07

Waiting? Short skirt? Must be a hooker

By Loyiso Sidimba (City Press)

Do you wear miniskirts on street corners, lift, lower, “open” your clothes to expose your private parts or breasts and importune would-be clients?

Then police have been watching you since September and you may be guilty of being a female sex worker or a prostidude (a male prostitute).

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has given police officers a list of things to note when arresting a “lady or gentleman of the night”.

But the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) believes the move gives police permission to stalk and even harass sex workers.

Sweat says for a cop to ascertain whether people are frequenting the streets, police will have to wait around for them to appear and then harass them to ascertain their reasons for being in the street at a particular time.

“Police resources should be used to watch out for crimes, not short skirts,” the advocacy group says.

Sweat director Sally-Jean Shackleton described the move as outrageous and asking too much from cops.

But the message from police is clear: do not stand on the same street corners on repeated occasions, wear certain types of clothes, accost clients, make insistent requests or wave down cars to draw motorists’ attention.

These moves may be used against alleged offenders in court. The NPA hopes the only inference courts will draw on criteria that fit is that the suspect was soliciting sex for purposes of prostitution, an illegal trade in South Africa.

The accused will be guilty of contravening the Sexual Offences Act of 1957, previously the Immorality Act, which made it a criminal offence for black people to have intercourse with whites.

According to the Sexual Offences Act, any person who entices, solicits or importunes in any public place for immoral purposes is guilty of an offence.

It says anyone over 18 who wilfully exhibits him or herself in indecent dress or manner at any door or window or within view of any public street or place is guilty of an offence.

Sweat’s Shackleton said despite an April 2009 interdict barring police from arresting sex workers, there was an increase in illegal profiling.

“They’re arrested daily, fined (between R500 and R1 000) and verbally abused by police,” said Shackleton.

Sweat took Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, then Western Cape police boss Mzwandile Petros, the Wynberg, Woodstock, Claremont and Sea Point station commanders and the City of Cape Town to court.

They were all ordered by Western Cape High Court Judge Burton Fourie to stop arresting sex workers when they knew “with a high degree of probability that no prosecution would follow such arrests”.

The NPA did not respond to requests for comment.

Sweat invites sex workers who experience trouble from police to call its 24-hour hotline for assistance 0 0800 60 60 60.

[This news article was sourced from City Press.co.za http://www.citypress.co.za/SouthAfrica/News/Waiting-Short-skirt-Must-be-a-hooker-20111217]

Published in News

SWEAT – the sex worker rights and health services organisation – have obtained a copy of wording of unpublicized guidelines provided to police by the National Prosecuting Authority, dating from September 2011. The guidelines consisting of a checklist of ten “aspects” which must be ticked before any sex worker is arrested for soliciting– see attachment below.

They show how deeply embedded the police abuse of the rights of sex workers is, and how impossibly expensive and legally uncertain it would be to attempt to enforce the current law.

Quoting from the guidelines, before making an arrest, police must judge that someone is a “known prostitute”, “has a habit of frequenting certain streets”, has been observed in those “certain streets on numerous occasions”, was wearing clothing which was “indecent”, was seen walking up to men in the streets in order to accost them, or waved down motor vehicles in order to attract attention, and “lifted/lowered/opened his/her clothing in order to expose his/her private parts or breasts”.

Stacey-Leigh Manoek, an attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre in Cape Town, said today: “The contents of this document are of great concern to us. In order for police officers to “tick off” every item in the checklist they will have to stalk and harass sex workers. For example, in order for a police officer to ascertain whether a person has a habit of frequenting the streets, the officer would have to wait around for them to appear and then harass them to ascertain the reasons for them being in the street at a particular time. They would have to do this again and again. This form of harassment has been prohibited by the Western Cape High Court.”

“Targeting women with low incomes trying to earn money for their families, police are being told to invade privacy, to make impossible judgements and to devote endless time to surveillance. Of course, there are very few convictions, and instead the police feel that such demeaning rules justify their emotional and physical abuse of sex workers, as evidenced by endless stories received by our organisation. Police resources should be used to watch out for crimes, not short skirts. We have just closed the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based violence – but sex workers can expect little protection from the police and face daily abuse and indignities. This law is thoroughly discredited, and endangers thousands of women each year. Decriminalisation of sex work will free police officers to tackle real crime like violence against women, and will enable organisations like ourselves to improve the lives of sex workers – it’s a win-win solution”, said Sally-Jean Shackleton of SWEAT.

For more information Sally-Jean Shackleton, Executive Director of SWEAT, is available on 082 330 4113, and Stacey-Leigh Manoek of the Womens Legal Centre is available on 082 075 5571,

[Saturday 17TH December is the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. Leading up to that day, SWEAT and SISONKE (the organisation of and for sex workers in South Africa) are highlighting the physically and emotionally violent impact of the criminalisation of the 250 000 plus sex workers in South Africa, their clients and those who work with them. We call for the decriminalisation of sex work, which is proven to protect sex workers, to promote their rights and improve relationships between them and the police.]

Published in SWEAT Press Releases