Commission for Gender Equality welcomes decriminalisation of sex work talks

Sex work
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The Commission for Gender Equality has welcomed the ongoing talks on the possible decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has been holding consultative meetings on the matter.

Currently, the buying and selling of sexual services is a crime in the country.

The Commission’s spokesperson Javu Baloyi says, “We are saying let’s decriminalise this thing so these people can operate freely in the interim. Some of them are coerced into sex work. Now we will be able to assist them so they can access health services. We can also help rehabilitate some of them who were forced. When it is a choice, then there is a perception that is there, so we wanted to protect their rights.”

Government departments show support

At least four government departments have fully thrown their weight behind the decriminalisation of sex work; one of the oldest professions in the world. It’s believed that this would assist sex workers to access all government services and reduce their victimisation and exposure to violence.

The Sisonke Group is a sex worker-led non-profit organisation advocating for the decriminalisation of adult sex work in South Africa.

It is estimated that there are 156 000 sex workers in the country. However, Sisonke believes there are many more who remain silent due to the stigma and discrimination they may face if they disclose what they do for a living.

Sisonke National Co-Ordinator Kholi Buthelezi says they want sex work to be recognised like other jobs.

“Sex workers, as a result of criminalisation of sex work, are unable to access these basic labour rights, also to negotiate safer sex working conditions and working hours and reporting sexual harassment or challenging the unfair dismissal and are not likely to seek legal assistance. So this speaks about if sex work was to be decriminalised, we would be able to have access to labour and be recognised as workers within the country.”