Assisting prostitutes

2017-11-01 13:45
Draft endorses system that helps prostitutes exit the industry.

Draft endorses system that helps prostitutes exit the industry. (File)

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The government is taking steps to assist adult people out of prostitution, with a reformed Sexual Offences Act in the works.

The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC) has invited the public to comment on a draft bill which, if passed, would endorse a system that would provide prostitutes with exit routes from that industry.

A presentation by the caucus to the South African Law Reform Commission said there were two options for augmenting the Sexual Offences Act — one of which would legalise a person “selling sexual services”.

The presentation said, however, that a preferred option would be to continue criminalising prostitution and related offences, but to introduce measures that would facilitate for the ability to leave the industry, as well as address discrimination at institutions like within the healthcare service. It would also aim to address social problems like transactional relationships, citing the “blesser” phenomenon.

This proposal even advocates for a prostitute’s criminal record to be destroyed once they have exited the industry.

Some of the efforts to assist prostitutes would include, as outlined in the MPWC presentation:

Skills development programmes available to prostitutes to enable a “gradual exit” from the industry;

To address discrimination toward prostitutes by health care workers by means of a complaints mechanism or equality legislation;

Guidelines for health workers for dealing with prostitutes;

Development of best practice guidelines by police when dealing with prostitution-related cases; and

Mandating the Department of Social Development to engage with prostitutes on various issues.

The MPWC said in its presentation that it did not support legalising prostitution because reforming the law was not “found to erase stigma”.

It said legalising prostitution would “normalise coercion and the expendability” of prostitutes and would increase the demand for prostitution in the country.

But Cookie Edwards, director of the KZN Network on Violence Against Women, said legalising prostitution would lead to greater protection for prostitutes. “Legalising it would allow them to access treatment and lower [acts of] discrimination.

“If it remains illegal, they could get murdered, raped, infected with HIV and fall pregnant and there would be no consequences for those abusers.

“They can even create safe houses for prostitutes if it was legalised.”

Edwards, overall, welcomed the aspects of the proposal that sought to create exit strategies for prostitutes. “This bill could educate people and allow prostitutes to access treatment. It is important to keep women safe.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  prostitution

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