South African Coalition Wants Full Decriminalisation of Sex Work

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Africa Regional Correspondent

A coalition has been launched to push for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa. The Asijiki Coalition for the Decriminalisation of Sex Work is a collective consisting of sex workers, activists and human rights defenders. It was launched in Cape Town on August 27. “The coalition’s main objective is to work together with the aim of obtaining law reform for the full decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa, through advocacy and litigation,” said national coordinator Buthelezi.

Asijiki is an isiZulu word for “no turning/looking back” according to Kholi Buthelezi, the Coordinator of Sisonke Sex Worker Movement (Sisonke). Activists also used the slogan during the anti-Apartheid struggle.

During the launch, a guide called Sex Workers and Sex Work in South Africa for reporting on sex work was launched as well. The Guide is for journalists and writers who report on issues related to sex work in South Africa. The guide sets out basic facts about sex work in South Africa and contains sections on appropriate terminology, use of images and respectful interviewing techniques.

The Guide is aimed at correcting negative or biased reporting of and about sex workers, said organisers. “The stories that we should be focusing on are stories of sex workers as people. They are mothers, they are fathers, and they are breadwinners. And because sex work is not protected by the law, they are not protected and they are open to rape and abuse, often by policemen, the very people who are supposed to protect us as South Africans,” said Demelza Bush, an associate at the human rights organisation Sonke Gender Justice.

The launch came at a time when several South African organisations have publicly called for the decriminalisation of sex work. The South African Law Reform Commission, the Commission for Gender Equality, among others, have urged South Africa to decriminalise sex work after highlighting the violence and abuse sex workers face. They also revealed how the fight against HIV is affected by laws targeting sex workers, and their clients.

To view the guide Sex Workers and Sex Work in South Africa on NSWP's website, click here.