Sex workers in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape have raised concerns about the ill treatment they allegedly receive from police.

This has come at a special dialogue between SAPS bosses and the Health Department in Mthatha. They allege that police confiscate condoms and some forcefully demand sex without using protection.

The sex workers believe this contributes to the rising numbers of sexually transmitted diseases in the O R Tambo region. Spokesperson Shaun Ntsikelelo Bebe says they want government to fully decriminalise sex work.

“The report that came about is talking about partial decriminalization of sex work and also legalization of sex work and that is not what we are advocating for, and that is not sex workers on the ground are looking for, what we are looking for we are looking for the full decriminalization of sex.”

Health MEC Phumza Dyantyi says police, his department and sex workers should work together to avoid the tendency to abuse sex workers.

“We think what we need to do is to work together with the police so as to minimize the abusive nature of police when they see them. For us it is really important that they do not take condoms from those people because we are preaching that they should use condoms. We are preaching safe sex, we want to reduce the infections of HIV.”

Meanwhile, provincial Commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga says Mthatha is a hotspot where high-profile people are mostly killed during their interaction with sex workers.

“I am happy we are here in this town tonight whereby we had a lot of cases of high profile people killed and when we find out we discovered that this person was with a sex worker which is very dangerous.  So when we go out to the street it is not that we are harassing you, we are not harassing the sex workers, we are protecting them.”