Support for Ramaphosa’s plan for sex workers

2016-03-14 12:30
A prostitute walks past so-called "sex boxes" at the opening day of Switzerland's first sex drive-in in Zurich. (Fabrice Coffrini, AFP)

A prostitute walks past so-called "sex boxes" at the opening day of Switzerland's first sex drive-in in Zurich. (Fabrice Coffrini, AFP)

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Pietermaritzburg - Various organisations, including the Family Policy Institute (FPI), have shown support for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to aid sex workers, but they disagree that sex is “work”.

Hailed as a “historic” moment for sex workers by the Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce, Ramaphosa said on Friday that sex workers could not be denied their humanity and their right to dignity.

He spoke at the launch of the National Sex Work Sector Plan — a project that aims to sensitise healthcare providers, social workers and law enforcement officials on the right of sex workers to quality care, confidentiality and consent.

For years, Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) and other sex-worker rights groups have lobbied for the rights of sex workers and for the industry to be legitimised and decriminalised.

“Whatever views individuals may hold about sex work, whatever the statutes may say about the legality of sex work, we cannot deny the humanity and inalienable rights of people who engage in sex work,” Ramaphosa said.

However while the FPI commended government for the plan, CEO Errol Naidoo raised concerns over the sex industry increasing and becoming a haven for other crimes.

“Decriminalised or legalised prostitution is a gift to organised crime, pimps, brothels owners and other human parasites who prey on vulnerable women and children. South Africa has high rates of poverty and unemployment. This means many more vulnerable women and children will be sucked into the exploitative sex industry and face the threat of being trafficked for sexual purposes by local and international crime syndicates …” Naidoo said in a statement.

The FPI said the most effective way government could protect the dignity and humanity of women trapped in prostitution was by clamping down on the demand for prostitutes.

“Men who buy prostitutes must be targeted and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In addition, law enforcement must aggressively shut down the crime syndicates who run prostitution rings and arrest and prosecute the pimps and brothel owners who abuse and exploit vulnerable women and children,” Naidoo said.

During his speech, Ramaphosa said that it was not necessarily the fault of the police.

“This is the consequence of our inability to develop a coherent approach to the challenges facing sex workers,” he said.

He added that sex workers had the right to be treated with dignity, the right to their bodily integrity and the right to say no.

“We have heard that the rate of HIV among sex workers is among the highest we have seen in any community in this country,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of California had conducted the first detailed study of HIV prevalence among female sex workers in South Africa.

He said the National Sex Work Sector Plan was about affirming the right of all South Africans to life, to dignity, to health — regardless of their occupation and regardless of their circumstances. — Witness Reporter and News24.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  sex workers

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