Clients need to prove HIV sta­tus

Min­is­ter of Health says pros­ti­tutes must pro­tect them­selves

Saturday Star - - METRO - ARTHI GOPI

ASK MEN to pro­vide proof of their HIV sta­tus be­fore they pay for sex.

This was one of the key mes­sages by Health Min­is­ter Dr Aaron Mot­soaledi, ad­dress­ing dozens of sex work­ers in Dur­ban this week.

At the meet­ing, held on the eve of the ANC’S 107th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions in the city, Mot­soaledi and Deputy Po­lice Min­is­ter Bongani Mkongi re­as­sured lo­cal sex work­ers that the party was com­mit­ted to push­ing its de­ci­sion, taken at their na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence in July 2017, to de­crim­i­nalise sex work.

Mot­soaledi urged women to pro­tect them­selves while do­ing their work.

“When men come to you he must give you proof that he went for an HIV test. Men must know that when they go to pay for sex, you will want proof of their HIV sta­tus. You are sell­ing sex, not your life. Do not agree when the man says he will pay more to have sex with­out a con­dom. You are giv­ing power to men un­nec­es­sar­ily,” he said.

Mot­soaledi said in­ci­dents of po­lice of­fi­cers con­fis­cat­ing con­doms from women was in con­flict with his de­part­ment’s man­date to pro­vide free con­doms to all cit­i­zens and urged the women to re­port any in­ci­dents where po­lice were abus­ing their au­thor­ity.

Mkongi also weighed in, stat­ing that “chas­ing after sex work­ers was a waste of re­sources”.

“Our peo­ple find it difficult to find work in the Repub­lic of South Africa be­cause of some so­cial eco­nomic is­sues.

“Some peo­ple are en­trepreneurs, oth­ers have ten­ders, oth­ers don’t have such op­por­tu­ni­ties, and their only op­tion is to go to sex work.

“It’s not as if they do not con­trib­ute to the tax base of the coun­try. When they are pay­ing for ho­tels, and buy cloth­ing from the shops to be beau­ti­ful on the streets, they con­trib­ute to the tax base, and there­fore, should be treated equally be­fore the law,” he said.

Mkongi said po­lice have cash in tran­sits, bank rob­beries, hi­jack­ings, rapes and many other crimes to han­dle, rather than chas­ing sex work­ers.

He said his de­part­ment was tasked with con­fis­cat­ing con­doms, in­clud­ing those “with sperm in­side” to use as ev­i­dence in court for cases against sus­pected sex work­ers.

Mkongi said there were many “moral­ists” who were fight­ing the le­gal­i­sa­tion.

“It’s your hu­man right to take de­ci­sions about your body. These moral­ists, they ar­gue in Par­lia­ment, they ar­gue in church, but their moral­ity is dis­placed be­cause the very same peo­ple are chow­ing the whole church, sleep­ing with other peo­ple’s wives,” said Mkongi.

He urged the women gath­ered at the meet­ing to or­gan­ise them­selves and fight for their righ“we, the govern­ment, es­pe­cially the po­lice, we are not your en­emy,” he said.

Kholi Buthelezi, of Sisonke, an or­gan­i­sa­tion fight­ing for the rights of sex work­ers, said while they have heard too of­ten the prom­ises made by govern­ment, she urged sex work­ers to join or­gan­i­sa­tions that had their best in­ter­ests at heart.

“I want an in­ves­ti­ga­tion done into the mis­use of govern­ment re­sources ev­ery time po­lice come after us. We are work­ing. We pay for ho­tel fees. We pay for things,” she said.

Sex work­ers said they wanted po­lice to stop ha­rass­ing them.

“These po­lice of­fi­cers want spot fines of some­times R3 000. This needs to stop. We need to feed our chil­dren, but now we have to give up the money we made. We want the govern­ment to make sex work le­gal, so we can do our work with­out wor­ry­ing about the po­lice,” said one woman.

A PROSTITUTE waits for cus­tomers.| CHRISTIAN HARTMANN Reuters

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