The ANC’s decision to decriminalise sex work in South Africa at its 54th national conference in Johannesburg this week has been met with relief by human rights campaigners.
Human Settlements Portfolio Committee chairperson Nocawe Noncedo Mafu announced that the legislation would be based on New Zealand’s model.
According to opendemocracy. net, the New Zealand Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) fully decriminalised sex work in 2003. “In New Zealand, it is legal for any citizen over the age of 18 to sell sexual services.
Street-based sex work is legal, as is running a brothel. “Sex workers’ rights are guaranteed through employment and human rights legislation,” the organisation noted.
Kholi Buthelezi, national coordinator of Sisonke National Sex Workers Movement of South Africa, said she wanted a society in which the constitution was upheld.
“A society where all freedom, our freedom, is not only written about in law books but where it is put into practice,” Buthelezi added.
“Although we celebrate this move in the right direction, we remain cautiously optimistic as this is not the first time that the ANC has expressed support for the decriminalisation of sex work.”
Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) said the ANC was joining many other institutions concerned about the high levels of violence the women, men and transgender people who sell sex experience and “that have acknowledged that SA’s current legal framework creates a context where this violence can occur with impunity.
“Changing the law is a huge symbolic act of inclusion. It won’t stop the stigma overnight, but it will make a significant contribution to change,” said Sweat executive director Sally Shackleton.
Supporters of the full decriminalisation of sex work include the Congress of SA Trade Unions and the Federation of Unions of SA, the Commission for Gender Equality, parliament’s multi-party women’s caucus and over 70 civil society organisations.
“Sex workers and ally organisations who have been fighting for the rights of sex workers for over 20 years are ready. “We have made huge strides in service provision and done rigorous research.
We have a South African National Sex Worker HIV Plan (2016-2019), and we have the largest organised and registered sex worker movement on the continent to ensure sex workers are visible and vocal in policies that concern their livelihood,” said Shackleton.
According to opendemocracy. net, five years after the introduction of the PRA in New Zealand, the Prostitution Law Review Committee found the sex industry had not increased in size and “many of the social evils predicted by some who opposed decriminalisation have not been experienced”.
“The PRA has been effective in achieving its purpose, and the committee is confident the vast majority of people in the sex industry are better off under the PRA than they were previously.”