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 →