16 Days Of Discontent: Day 15 – Sex work

The 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women were first introduced into South Africa by women’s organisations in 1993, with government taking up the Campaign in 1997. In 2015 our big question is what has changed?

Picture of a sex worker standing in a streetOne way to answer this question is to revisit those draft laws and policies with the potential to curb violence against women – but which have been forgotten. Today’s focus is on the remaining provisions of the 1957 Sexual Offences Act which criminalise a range of acts associated with adult sex work.

Finalisation of law reform processes dealing with adult prostitution/sex work: 2/10

Sex workers experience high levels of violence perpetrated by clients, police and even the public. In Cape Town, a study found that 12% of street-based sex workers had been raped by a policeman, while approximately 70% of sex workers who approached the Women’s Legal Centre for legal advice and assistance reported police abuse in a two-year research study in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. In addition, because many police officers believe the myth that it is “impossible” for a sex worker to be raped they are often unwilling to open a case even if a sex worker makes a complaint.

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