By Zara Nicholson, Cape TimesPOLICE and health-care workers must be trained to deal with sex workers and protect their human rights, MPs said yesterday after a briefing on the plight of women in the sex trade.
In a bid to decriminalise the sex trade, the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) yesterday highlighted the effects of the stigma attached to sex workers.
Ntokozo Yingwana, advocacy officer for Sweat, told MPs at the Multiparty Women’s Caucus that the criminalisation of sex work through the Sexual Offences Act enabled widespread abuse of power by police and health professionals.
Yingwana said the stigma prevented sex workers from getting access to health services. “Sex workers’ access to health care is limited due to discrimination by health-care workers, who verbally abuse sex workers for coming to clinics too often for condoms or sexually transmitted disease (STD) treatment,” Yingwana said.
She said sex workers often reported abuses by police, such as rape, physical assault and being forced into providing sexual favours. Yingwana said it was also difficult for police to enforce the law as the only evidence they could confiscate was condoms.
She said the confiscation of condoms also posed a threat to sex workers’ health.
Several MPs welcomed the presentation and said it was their duty as lawmakers to ensure that sex workers’ human rights were protected.
ANC MP Pam Tshwete said: “As lawmakers, we need to know about your concerns and monitor them. It is clear police, society and health-care professionals must be trained to deal with sex workers .”
Other MPs agreed, saying it was important that sex workers’ rights were protected from any abuse.
Women’s Caucus chairwoman Beauty Dlulane said the presentation by Sweat was an “eye-opener”.
“The constitution ensures human rights for all. We now know what issues they face, because we did not want to critisise them without hearing from them,” Dlulane said.
She asked all MPs to discuss sex workers’ issues with their party caucuses and have further discussions with Sweat.
[This news article was sourced from the IOL.co.za: MPs' eyes opened to rights in sex trade]