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By Robert Hamblin, and Sistaz Hood

“Her work was illegal and her identity a shame. Transgender sex workers suffer more than just one hate in society” said Netta Marcus from the Sistaz Hood Transgender Sex Workers support group at Sex Worker Advocacy and Education Task force (SWEAT) in Cape Town.

The transgender women* from The Sistaz Hood marched in solidarity with lesbian and gay groups today, to protest the non delivery of government action on hate crimes in South Africa. The LGBT people participating in the march handed a memorandum of demands to Western Cape ANC official Songezo Mjonggile.

In recent weeks, there has been a very visible surge in hate crime towards LGBT people. Nine LGBT people were murdered in SA. In Cape Town the Sistaz Hood lost one of their members, Sasha Lee 37, only two weeks ago. She was stabbed through the heart and left to die on a pavement in Wynberg. She is one of many sisters the group has lost in the years they have known one another.

There is no research on Trans people in South African but an international study with five participating countries found that one transgender woman is killed for every working day of the month.

Most often these transwomen are sex workers. The study documents the homicides of transgender women where clear hate crime was documented by authorities. **

In recent weeks Sasha-Lee was not the only gender variant person to be murdered because of their lives and situations as people challenged by gender identity or sexual orientation. A gay man in Kuruman was near decapitated and a transgender women in the Eastern Cape was also murdered this week.

Other campaigns in the last 24 months have created a very clear consciousness about the systemic violent rape of lesbian women because of their sexual orientation. Government has failed to produce the hate crimes response it has promised and the problem becomes more fatal for LGBT people each day that government fails to respond.

The Sistaz Hood Transgender women sex workers group is one of the largest known organised gatherings of transgender people in South Africa on a regular basis. The members also do advocacy work whereby they document the typical situations of the average black transgender woman of South Africa. Severe marginalisation due to stigma surrounding gender variant presentation has them leading outsider lives since their teenage years. The average group member has been indigent since they were a young age and sex work is most often part of their survival strategies.

They struggle with ensuing addiction issues, homelessness and HIV and experience a consistent prejudice from all that is a service provider regarding health and other basic human rights. Fear of being murdered is daily reality for all of them. Every single one of them has lost a friend to a hate crime.

Says Sistaz Hood: We are who we are – stop Killing us. We implore government to respond to this genocide.

SWEAT works from a human rights perspective and towards the total decrimilisation of sex work. For more information on the above issues contact Sally-Jean Shackleton director of SWEAT at 011 488-7875 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

*Transgender woman: A transgender woman is a person who was born with a male body and who has the gender identity of a woman. (Male to female transsexual)

**Murder Monitoring Project

For more images of The Sistaz Hood visit the SWEAT FACEBOOK page.



Published in SWEAT Press Releases
Thursday, 08 March 2012 11:12

Cop got laid but never paid!

By Zama Khumalo, Daily Sun

Photo: Prostitutes took to the streets to protest against police harassment.

There is an ongoing crisis for prostitutes who are often manipulated into having sex by police to avoid arrests.

That’s one of the stories told by an abused woman on Saturday, which was International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.

The ladies of the night marched against police harassment across the country.

Sex worker Ayanda Mbangi (36) told Daily Sun that she was forced to have sex with those who were supposed to protect her.

It was 16 August last year when she was standing at the corner of Mooi and Albert streets in Joburg with other prostitutes when the cops arrived. The others managed to get away but she was left behind to face the cops on her own.

“I couldn’t run because of a hip and ankle injury I sustained in a car accident in 2009. They threatened to arrest me for selling sex in a public area. They then drove around with me and asked how much I charged for a session.

“I told them my asking price was between R25 and R30. I became suspicious when one of them kept asking about my job.

“He told me that he hadn’t been with a woman for three weeks. While pushing up my skirt, he tore my underwear and told me to treat him like a client. When he was done, he kicked me out of the car and told me he wasn’t going to arrest me,” said Ayanda.



Prostitutes march through Mzansi cities

Prostitutes marched on cop shops in big Mzansi cities on Saturday to protest against police harassment.

This was on International Sex Workers Rights Day.

In a memorandum handed over to station commanders, the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy taskforce said:

“The police arrest and detain us without charges and without the intention of prosecuting us.”

Wearing masks and waving placards describing their suffering, they called for urgent action on their complaints.

“Our rights are being violated for doing work that supports our families,” they said.

The prostitutes also called on the government to stop treating their work as crime.

“Should sex work be decriminalised, then we would be able to work hand in hand with the police in combating crimes such as human trafficking,” said Sisonke national co-ordinator Kholi Buthelezi.

Central Joburg Police Station Commander Ronnie Rajin said he was prepared to meet the prostitutes to discuss their complaints against cops.

Provincial police commissioners in the provinces are expected to respond to the charges.

[This news article was originally sourced from the Daily Sun newspaper, on Monday March 5, 2012 (see attachment below for the PDF version of this article)]



Here are more photos of the Johannesburg Central Police Station march, taken by Hoosain Khan, of Wits University:

Published in News
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 08:49

Kenya prostitutes march the streets

A group of masked male and female prostitutes marched the streets of the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday, demanding the legalisation of their trade.

Under red umbrellas and in red T-shirts, the protesters bore masks saying: "sex workers rights are human rights," and "my body, my business".

"Today we are hiding because of stigma and discrimination, because sex is our business," said one protester who gave his name only as John.

"It is only a matter of time before sex workers are decriminalised. It is not a matter of if, but when," said Peninah Mwangi, another demonstrator.

Prostitution is illegal in Kenya, but last month the Nairobi mayor suggested the practice be legalised at designated zones, sparking harsh criticism.

"We are ready to pay taxes. We would love to see sex work made legal. Sex workers are workers like any other and not criminals," said John Mathenge, the national co-ordinator of the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance.

He said they were ready for talks with the government on how their rights could be guaranteed.

[This news article was originally sourced from News24: Kenya prostitutes march the streets ]

Published in News

Sex workers, service providers and human rights advocates will be marching in 5 cities tomorrow to expose the abuse and injustice sex workers in South Africa experience at the hands of the police and criminal justice system. SWEAT - the sex worker rights organisation - and Sisonke- the national sex workers’ movement and partners organised the march to commemorate International Sex Worker Rights Day, celebrated annually on the 3rd of March.

The day was first celebrated in 2001 when over 25 000 sex workers gathered in India for a sex worker festival. Since then sex worker groups across the world have celebrated the 3rd of March as International Sex Worker Rights’ Day.

In a 2009-2010 research study conducted by the Women’s Legal Centre, out of 309 Cape Town based sex workers, 217 complained of police abuse, which means approximately 70% of sex workers experienced abuse at the hands of police, and *Sunshine (not her real name) was one of them:

“One night on my way to the shop a police van stopped beside me. They didn’t even ask questions. They forced me into the van, and I knocked my head. I had a big bump- very blue. They took me to Woodstock Police Station. They saw me as a new face on the road, and took me into a cell alone. Three police men were standing in a line, no name tags, no badges, nothing. Everyone had a condom in their hand and they raped me, one after each other”.

“We are calling for the decriminalisation of sex work because the current law forces us to live in fear of police who harass and abuse sex workers with impunity. We are being arrested and our rights are being violated for doing work that supports our families. But should sex work be decriminalised, then we would be able to work hand-in-hand with the police in combating crimes such as human trafficking”, said Kholi Buthelezi, Sisonke National Coordinator.

A prosecutor appearing at the Wynberg Magistrate Court today, to ensure the conviction of a mother of 2 for solicitation, blamed sex work for drugs and for violence against women, saying “deaths are being reported through various acts, also other offences such as rape are caused by crimes like this (soliciting for reward), women like the accused put the society at risk.” The magistrate also believed these myths about sex workers and sentenced the woman to 12 months in jail, suspended for 3 years.

Marchers tomorrow will be demanding that the Police meet with representatives of sex workers by the end of the month and adopt a new practice of dealing with sex work “I think this is a very reasonable request- if the police are interested in fighting real crimes like rape and murder, they should agree to meet with us” said Ms Buthelezi.

[For details of these marches, see the attachment below.]

Published in News
Decriminalise Sex Work Now!

International Sex Worker Rights Day! 3rd March! Come march with us in.............

East London, Rustenburg, Louis Trichardt, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Cape Town:

We march at 9.00am from the The parking lot at the corner of Belrail and Charl Malan Street, opposide to Bllville Middestad Mall to Bellville Police Station.

For more info contact the helpline at: 0800 60-60-60

East London:

We march at 10.00am from the corner of AVBOB and Trinity Methodist Church on Oxford Street to the Fleet Street Police Station.

For more info contact Ntombomzi at: 043 742 2651/ 073 106 0109

Rustenburg:

We march at 10.00am from the corner of Oliver Tambo and Bethlehem Street to Rustenburg Police Station.

For more info contact John at: 083 504 5243

Louis Trichardt:

We march at 10.00am from Makhado Municipality Park to Makhado Police Station.

For more info contact Gumula at: 015 963 1222 or Linda at: 079 162 7731

Johannesburg:

We march at 10.00am from the Workers Library on Miriam Makeba Street to Johannesburg Central Police Station.

For more info contact Pamela at: 078 240 2651

We will provide masks for everybody! First come first serve on t-shirts!

Please bring a red umbrella or wear orange clothing!

Published in News