THE TIMES: Law nails HIV sex worker scheme

14 March 2016 SEX workers, long ignored by the government and harassed by police, will finally get access to HIV treatment and prevention — but decriminalisation has not been dealt with by government and this could hobble the initiative. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa released a detailed plan on Friday to ensure sex workers achieve better healthcare. About 70% of sex workers in Johannesburg are HIV-positive. Ramaphosa said sex workers will now receive antiretrovirals as soon as they test positive. Unlike other South Africans they will not have to wait until their CD4 count — the measure of immunity — drops to 500 to qualify… The Law Reform Commission — which investigated whether the law that makes prostitution illegal has to be changed — held hearings on decriminalisation in 2001 and accepted written submissions in 2012. “The process, taking 15 years, has been too long,” said Sally Shackelton, director of Sweat. Read full article: http://times-e-editions.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/showarticle.aspx?article=c9a58fe3-ad8a-4ea0-aad4-35e85c51fb95 … Continue reading →

ENCA: Government mulls over legalising sex work

12 March 2016 JOHANNESBURG – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says it is vital that the government deal with the status of South Africa’s sex workers. Launching the National Sex Worker HIV policy in Johannesburg on Friday, he said the state is deciding whether and how to decriminalise sex work. “Whatever beliefs we might have about sex work, whatever the statutes might say about the legality … [sex workers] are human, they are just like all of us,” he said. “Sex workers can no longer be denied their constitutional rights. They can no longer be people who are just beaten up, with no recourse to justice. Or they can just be subjected to unlawful arrest,” Ramaphosa said. Many activists and NGOs argue that sex work needs to be decriminalised to enable sex workers to access proper healthcare… Advocacy group SWEAT (Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce) says it hopes the new policy will pave the way for sex work to be legalised. ”From our perspective the launch of the plan certainly implies the port to decriminalisation, for a law-reform process, but of course that requires public participation. But at least there is the intention to kickstart the process. It’s been in the process for more than a decade. It really is time, SWEAT director Sally Shackleton said. Read full article: http://www.enca.com/south-africa/government-mulls-over-legalising-sex-work … Continue reading →

Media Alert: Police arrest witnesses to sex worker murder

Police arrest witnesses to sex worker murder and jail them to keep them ‘out of murders’ way’ In days preceding the 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children, police in Pretoria are accused of mismanaging a murder investigation and punishing the women who are trying to bring a murderer to book. Koketso a well-known sex worker who worked in an area of Pretoria known by sex workers as ‘the bush’ was found dead in the early morning of the 9th November 2015, after being last seen on the 5th November 2015. The news of her murder shocked her colleagues and friends. Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute (WRHI), the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), and the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) – organisations that advocate for the rights of sex workers – supported a response to the murder. An event was held to commemorate the life of Koketso on the 11th November 2015. The police were invited to attend the event to speak and to take statements from sex workers willing to offer information contributing to their investigation, says Wayne Helfrich, a project manager at WRHI. “It was a difficult time, sex workers were in mourning and were afraid, we hoped the police would conduct a thorough investigation and reassure the sex workers and the community.” Helfrich further explained that, “Koketso’s family and friends attended the commemoration- it was emotional and moving, more especially since it turned out also to be her birthday.” At the memorial sex workers and allies waited for over 2 hours for investigators to arrive. When they failed to turn up after numerous calls, they decided to go to the police station themselves. The police assured the representatives of the sex workers and organisations that 4 officers would take statements from the women willing to speak out. Again, the police failed to arrive. The police eventually showed up on the 13th November 2015, but instead of conducting an investigation and taking statements, they arrested sex workers and took them to the Pretoria West Police station. On the 20th November 2015 they once again came to the area, and this time set fire to the shacks and possessions of sex workers who work and live in ‘the bush’. A sex worker from the community, who is also a Peer Educator at WRHI, said she was told by an officer at the scene … Continue reading →

Media Alert: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence: Sex workers stand against violence towards sex workers

On the 10 December 2015, Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and Sisonke National Sex Workers Movement in South Africa will be commemorating the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers in various provinces. Around the world this day customarily is celebrated on the 17th December. It is a day of solidarity where sex workers, allies, and advocates come together to mourn the violence perpetrated against sex workers and renew commitments to end this violence. The Day to End Violence against Sex Workers was first recognized in 2003 as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the ‘Green River Killer’ in Seattle, Washington. Since 2003, Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered people from cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination of sex work and remember victims of violence. This year has brought an increase in supporters for the decriminalisation of sex work with the launch of Asijiki, a coalition for the decriminalisation of sex work which currently has a rapidly growing membership from civil society organisations and individuals. Despite these forward strides by civil society, sex work remains criminalised under South African law and there has been a worrying trend of sex worker murders in South Africa. 2014 saw a high number of brutal murders of sex workers, one being of Desiree Murugan whose body was found beheaded in Durban. In November 2015 alone, 4 sex workers have been murdered in South Africans. The deep stigma and vulnerability of sex workers to violence and harassment has further been illustrated by the recent actions of the police in Pretoria. In response to the murder of a sex worker, police have terrorised the deceased colleagues who were will to give statements and have set fire, 4 times, to their shacks and possessions. South Africa is not the only country where violence against sex workers is committed with impunity. On the 10 December 2015 we stand in solidarity with sex worker activists and call for the decriminalisation of sex work and an end to violence against sex workers. Memorial events will be happening in all nine provinces. In Gauteng, the first ever sex worker sector parliament will be taking place, hosted by the Gauteng Legislature. They have invited 500 sex workers from five district in Gauteng to debate about the Decriminalisation of Sex Work in South Africa. For more information contact the SWEAT … Continue reading →