Church supports sex work

2018-03-06 06:00
Sisonke members and partners in front of the Central Methodist Mission.

Sisonke members and partners in front of the Central Methodist Mission.

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The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) and Sisonke, a national sex workers’ movement in South Africa, celebrated the 17th annual International Sex Worker Rights Day on Thursday.

To commemorate the day, Sweat and Sisonke, in collaboration with Central Methodist Mission Church, unveiled a banner from the church’s steeple, reading: “Jesus was the first to decriminalise sex work – John 8:7”.

Sisonke provincial coordinator, Lloyd Rugara, says: “We hope this action and words of affirmation will open up meaningful engagement around the complex issues of religion and sex work, and the role of the faith-based community in support for social justice issues and the human rights of sex workers. This will be the first public statement by a religious institution in South Africa in support of the decriminalisation of sex work.”

The day’s history dates back to 2001 when 25 000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival despite efforts from prohibitionist groups trying to prevent it. The event was organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta-based group that has over 50 000 sex worker members and members of other communities. The groups also marched to Parliament to address members of the ANC.

“As advocates for the rights of sex workers, we would like to congratulate them on the resolution taken at the 54th ANC elective conference, where they committed to supporting the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa,” Rugara says.

“This day is important to Sisonke as it is the reason our movement was started – to create a space and a voice for sex workers, while advocating for their human rights. We will not be made invisible and we will not be silenced­. We are human beings and deserve human rights.”

On Sunday, Pastor Allan Storey held a church service dedicated to sex workers.

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