Sex workers want legalisation

Published: February 14, 2013

As President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation Address tomorrow, coinciding with the One Billion Rising Campaign against gender-based violence, sex workers will be adding their voices to growing concerns about violence against women. We ask, "What will it take for government to decriminalise sex work? More sex workers dying?"

These were the words of Candy, a 55 year old Cape Town street-based sex worker, on last week’s Special Assignment, ‘Surviving the Streets’. The exposé looked into the alleged death in police custody of a sex worker in Rustenburg, only known as Lerato. Her body is yet to be found.

As part of the One Billion Rising Campaign, the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce, and Sisonke (the only South African movement of sex workers) will be hosting a ‘Rising’, in memory of Lerato, and others whose deaths have fallen through the cracks of our criminal justice system, only because they are sex workers.

"The stereotyping of sex workers forces them to have no protection against police abuse, and anyone else for that matter. The label that they carry gives perpetrators the entitlement to abuse them, because they know that they won’t be reported. This is a perfect opportunity, to raise awareness around the plight of sex workers," says Zubeida Shaik, Programme Director for the Parliamentary Millennium Programme, and Volunteer Coordinator for South Africa’s One Billion Rising Campaign.

Sara Matchett (Co-founder and Artistic Director), and Dr Makgathi Mokwena (Programme’s Director) of the Mothertongue Project, will be facilitating this expressive arts ‘Rising’. Dr Mokwena describes tomorrow’s ‘Rising’ as "finding ways to engage with one’s body. It’s about claiming, affirming and celebrating oneself". This ‘Rising’ is reserved for female (and transgender female) sex workers.

The expressive arts sesison will be followed by a performance by the SWEAT drama group Umzekelo, at the mass ‘Rising’ at Thibault Square, Cape Town (CBD).

If you are a sex worker, in and around Cape Town, and would like to join us for these events, please call the SWEAT/Sisonke 24/7 toll-free Helpline number on 0800 60 60 60.

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