Pretoria cops ‘harass’ sex workers

A well-known hideout for sex workers under a bridge. Photo: Nthabiseng Madumo

A well-known hideout for sex workers under a bridge. Photo: Nthabiseng Madumo

Sex workers’ movement Sweat accused police of ‘gross violation of human rights’.

Pretoria West police have been accused of abusing sex workers and neglecting to perform their duties when dealing with cases involving sex workers.

The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce’s (Sweat) Sally Shackleton said the abuse of sex workers had escalated in Pretoria West since November last year, Rekord Moot reported.

“This has been an ongoing problem not only in Pretoria West, but countrywide. We are very disappointed that the SAPS and metro police have done little to ensure the safety of sex workers,” said Shackleton.

“Last year between August and December, Sweat, Women’s Legal Centre (WLC), Wits Reproductive Health and the HIV Unit received complaints from sex workers [in Pretoria West] who were harassed by the police, and had their possessions and condoms burned,” she said.

Shackleton said the harassment of sex workers in the area known as the Bush continued for months and resulted in the isolation and increased danger to women working there.

“Sweat has the testimony of sex workers and peer educators working for the Wits HIV Research Institute (WHRI) who run outreaches in the area. It is believed police were in the area on 14 May and burnt down the Bush area and unused condoms found there,” she said.

Shackleton said the police failed to do their job after the body of a woman was found in the Bush in November last year.

“The police in question have shown no empathy after they found a woman’s body. They refused to take statements from some of the women, which may have assisted the investigation,” she said.

Shackleton did not indicate if the woman who was found was a sex worker.

Pretoria West police were not available for comment at the time of publication.

Tshwane metro police spokesperson Inspector Phindile Molefe said she was not aware of any sex workers being harassed.

Caxton News Service

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