Director of Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task force (SWEAT), Sally-Jean Shackleton, says the decision by the African National Congress (ANC) to decriminalise sex workers will improve access to health care for millions of sex workers.

Sex workers

The governing party’s Social Transformation Commission took the decision at it’s National Conference at Nasrec to propose the legalisation of sex work.

Human settlement portfolio committee chair Nocawe Mafu says it will go a long way in protecting women from abuse and will ‘remove the stigma of a sex workers being less worthy’.

SWEAT’s Shackleton says access to health care facilities and services for sex works will significantly improve.

“We currently have a HIV rate sitting at crisis level. There is an estimate of around a 60% HIV rate among sex workers. This is a significant problem, which stakeholders have failed to address. We have a national sex workers plan which set targets for access to health. One being specific mechanisms offering health services to sex workers.

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“However there are barriers that sex workers face. Access to health care has been limited because people stigmatise us, see us as criminals, getting repeatedly harassed and feeling ashamed and worthy of the services offered.”

In the case, S v Jordan v Others, the court held that the law criminalising prostitution, only targets sex workers and not their customers, which is not discriminatory.

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It held that the law is gender-neutral and that customers are liable to prosecution under other legislation.

“We have been waiting fo this for a long time. Sex workers are organised,” says Shackleton.

The proposal will now be tabled in Parliament.

Author: Nathan Daniels