Police Officers working in Pretoria West, Tshwane continue to harass sex workers working in the area known to sex workers as the ‘Bush’ this time with alleged direct instructions from the Mayor’s Office in Tshwane. SWEAT have testimony from sex workers and peer educators working for the Wits HIV Research Institute (WHRI) who run outreaches in the area that the police were in the area last week Thursday, 14 May 2016 burning down the bush and unused condoms found there.

Last year between August and December, Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) & Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Unit (WRHI) received a complaint from sex workers working in the area saying that they are harassed by the police and their possessions and condoms burned. This form of harassment continued for months and resulted in the isolation and increased danger for women working there. This was evidenced by discovery of a sex worker brutally murdered by an unknown suspect in November 2015.

The police in question, have shown no empathy for those who found the body of the woman, and have not fulfilled their responsibilities and police officers, even refused to take statements from some of the women who may assist in their investigation into the murder.

This gross violation of Human Rights and burning of condoms and personal property continues to happen with impunity even after the Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa launched the South African National Sex Worker HIV Plan in March 2016 which he said was about affirming the right of all South Africans to life, to dignity, to health – regardless of their occupation and regardless of their circumstances.

In his speech, the Deputy President acknowledged that, “they have one organ of the state providing a very necessary service (condoms) and another organ of the state taking that very service away.”

The Deputy President further stated that, “whatever views individuals may hold about sex work, whatever the statutes may say about the legality of sex work, we cannot deny the humanity and inalienable rights of people who engage in sex work.”

The Police in Pretoria East, seemingly with the support of the city’s Mayor continue to bully sex workers in spite of clear evidence that this harms sex workers and increases their isolation from points of support and worse, extreme violence. Rather that protecting women from crime, the police are enabling it.

SWEAT, Sisonke, WLC and WRHI call on the Mayor to suspend attacks on sex workers and instead engage with sex workers to ensure their protection and ability to access health care and support. We call on the police to urgently properly investigate the murder in November last year.

For media comments please contact:

  1. SWEAT – Sally Shackleton – 082 330 4113
  2. WLC – Mosima Kekana – 011 339 1099
  3. Wayne Helfrich – 082 887 5915

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