Waiting? Short skirt? Must be a hooker

2011-12-17 19:37

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


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