Chance to voice an opin­ion on sex work

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - NEWS - Far­ren Collins

THE pub­lic will get the chance to have their say on whether adult pros­ti­tu­tion should be le­galised af­ter the De­part­ment of Jus­tice re­leased a re­port by the South African Law Reform Com­mis­sion yes­ter­day.

Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Michael Ma­sutha said the gov­ern­ment was not con­sti­tu­tion­ally obliged to change the law‚ which crim­i­nalises sex work. The aim of the re­port – handed to the de­part­ment in 2014 – was to con­sider the need for reform.

In its find­ings‚ the com­mis­sion said pros­ti­tu­tion was driven by poverty‚ in­equal­ity and unemployment‚ but rec­om­mended that the law re­main un­changed be­cause it could cre­ate “an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous cul­tural shift”‚ Ma­sutha said.

“The re­port in­di­cates that ex­ploita­tion‚ par­tic­u­larly of women‚ is in­her­ent in pros­ti­tu­tion and de­pends on con­tin­gent ex­ter­nal fac­tors re­lated to gen­der vi­o­lence‚ in­equal­ity and poverty. And that such ex­ploita­tion does not arise merely in re­sponse to the leg­isla­tive frame­work.”

The re­port pre­sented two leg­isla­tive op­tions: re­tain­ing a crim­i­nalised le­gal frame­work‚ with the op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple in pros­ti­tu­tion to “di­vert” out of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem to help them leave the in­dus­try; and crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of “all role-play­ers in pros­ti­tu­tion, with the ex­cep­tion of the per­son pro­vid­ing the sex­ual ser­vice”.

The sec­ond op­tion is based on a Swedish model and is in line with rec­om­men­da­tions by women’s rights group Em­brace Dig­nity.

Noz­izwe Mad­lala-Rout­ledge‚ the NGO’s di­rec­tor‚ said the rec­om­men­da­tion was driven by what they had wit­nessed fol­low­ing en­gage­ment with pros­ti­tuted and traf­ficked peo­ple.

“This is why we vo­cally sup­port a par­tial de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion model as part of a com­pre­hen­sive set of in­ter­ven­tions to ad­dress vi­o­lence against women‚ pa­tri­archy and gen­der in­equal­ity‚” she said.

“How­ever‚ we are not sug­gest­ing a cookie-cut­ter ap­proach but rather an amended form of this law which also takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the so­cioe­co­nomic and con­sti­tu­tional con­text.”

Ad­vo­cacy group Sex Work­ers Ed­u­ca­tion and Ad­vo­cacy Task force‚ or Sweat‚ be­lieves to­tal de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of sex work is the best way to deal with pros­ti­tu­tion‚ and that the find­ings in the law reform com­mis­sion re­port are out­dated.

“We call on the gov­ern­ment: lis­ten to the ev­i­dence‚ lis­ten to sex work­ers‚ lis­ten to civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions‚ lis­ten to pub­lic health in­sti­tu­tions and de­crim­i­nalise sex work now,” Sweat di­rec­tor Sally Shack­le­ton said.

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