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:
In 2009 the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has called for written submissions from the public and interested parties on the “The Millennium Development Goals and the realisation of economic and social rights in South Africa”.
Summary of submission
Sex work in South Africa is a crime. Sex workers’ economic, social and physical vulnerability in South African society is created, sustained and exacerbated by outdated laws that criminalise “sex for reward” transactions. These vulnerabilities must be urgently addressed.
Socio-economic rights encompass the basic entitlement of all people in South Africa and provide an important mechanism for the attainment of social justice. By virtue of their inherent human dignity, sex workers are entitled to the range of socio-economic rights enshrined in the Constitution, yet the realisation of these rights is compromised daily by police prosecution, social stigma and gender based violence. Sex workers’ dignity, freedom and equality – the three pillars of the Constitution – are undermined by a legal system that criminalises their profession and often their only livelihood, while inhibiting their access to essential services, social security, housing and education.
This submission describes the range of barriers that sex workers face in enjoying their basic rights, and in particular socio-economic rights. It concludes that unless sex work is decriminalised, sex workers will not be able to claim their basic entitlements under the South African Constitution.
The full submission is available below, and downloadable.
By Vladimir Mzaca, TimesLive.co.za
With alarming numbers of young girls and women turning to prostitution due to unemployment and poverty, the Zimbabwe Sexual Rights Centre is educating sex workers on their rights.
"We don't call them prostitutes. They are commercial sex workers. At times some people call them 'ladies of the night'. We are working with them because they are people too. They have rights," said Mojalifa Mokoele, projects officer for the Bulawayo-based organisation.
The world's oldest profession is viewed as immoral by Zimbabwean culture and law. There are constant police raids on sex workers, some of whom operate from the roadsides of major cities, such as the Avenues area in Harare and Simon Pararenyatwa Street in Bulawayo.
The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) on Monday said sex workers nationwide are being taught to blog. The initiative aims to help prostitutes recount their daily challenges and share it with a broader audience. So far about 30 people have been trained both in Cape Town and Johannesburg.