Sex, and those who sell it, came under the microscope yesterday as the multi-party women’s caucus (MPWC) in parliament heard more submissions on the SA Law Reform Commission’s (SALRC) report on sex work.
Chaired by MP Masefele Morutoa, it was a chance for organisations – both pro and against – who hadn’t made submissions to the SALRC to put their arguments forward after the summit was postponed last year.
And submissions there were – 39 in total – broken up into five subgroups that made their presentations throughout the day.
Just some of the participants were the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Embrace Dignity, Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation SA, Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Taskforce, Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation SA and trade union federation Cosatu.
The WLC and LRC said in their joint submission Section 9 of the constitution was clear in its demand for equal treatment by all people by the law and equal benefit of the law, and the ongoing criminalisation allowed for the growing rights violations sex workers suffered.
“Human right violations of sex workers are a common occurrence in South Africa. In advancing the decriminalisation position of sex work, we are concerned with the human rights violations sex workers suffer as a direct result of the current legal framework,” the legal groups submitted.
Cosatu’s Mathew Park said the federation supported decriminalisation “because it will help ensure sex workers are treated as human beings and are able to access their full constitutional, labour, human and other rights and opportunities”.
He added: “Decriminalisation will assist government to focus on and tackle the scourge of human and child trafficking and abuses. To delay decriminalisation is to delay dealing with the many challenges sex workers and as a consequence society face.”
Errol Naidoo of the Family Policy Institute said in a statement through the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation SA – which represented 31 organisations – a decriminalised sex industry was the worst possible policy for SA.
“We make this submission in consideration of the dire social realities in the nation and the warnings of policy failures on prostitution internationally,” Naidoo said.
The ANC resolved to decriminalise sex work in South Africa at its 54th national conference in Johannesburg last year.
Morutoa said: “The SALRC report recommended either continued criminalisation or partial criminalisation, but no position was taken by Cabinet as yet. So the aim of convening the summit is to bring all the relevant stakeholders under one roof to engage and craft a united way forward.”