Multi-Party Women’s Caucus to Deliberate Further on Decriminalisation of Sex Work

The Multi-Party Women's Caucus (MPWC) today held a summit with various stakeholders for their inputs or responses to the South African Law Reform Commission's (SALRC's) report on adult prostitution.

The committee receive more than 50 submissions from the public with most organisations opting to make presentations at the summit. Committee Chairperson, Ms Masefele Story Morutoa, had previously emphasised that the MPWC has pronounced its support for decriminalisation of sex work and there are other various organisations, including the Commission for Gender Equality, that are also in support of the decriminalisation of sex work.

At the same time, the MPWC is aware that there are also other organisations which are against the decriminalisation of sex work. The SALRC's report recommended either continued criminalisation or partial criminalisation, but no position was taken by Cabinet on the matter as yet. So the aim of convening the summit was to bring all the relevant stakeholders under one roof to engage and craft a united way forward.

During the summit, the committee heard from groups for and against the decriminalisation of sex work. Many presenters felt that the SALRC did not adequately engage with sex workers before finalising its report. Koketso Moeti Amandla indicated there was a lack of research in the SALRC report which also does not recognise the humanity of sex workers. The organisation said in participatory democracies sex workers should be given the opportunity to decide whether they want to ply their trade. It should not always be assumed that women are victims and don't have the right to choose their occupation.

Dr T Mofokeng from Nalane and Associates said it is imperative that Parliament does not agree with the SALCR to continue criminalising sex work. She said human rights are not the subject of public opinion polls. The Women's Legal Centre and the Legal Resources Centre said the Labour Court have found that sex work amounts to work, albeit illegal work.

The summit also heard support for the SALCR on continued criminalisation of sex work. Mr Marcel van der Watt said human traffickers and pimps are remarkably similar and present in this space. Ms Madri Bruwer from the organisation Straatwerk, said the ideal is to prevent entry into prosecution, and furthermore, everything must be done for those who exit the trade. She called for sex work to remain criminalised as the law must at all times communicate hope. She went on to say the damage caused by prosecution cannot be reversed.

Some committee members wanted to know where is the workplace for sex work and how is it identifiable, whilst another saw it as an act of slavery. Others felt morality should not be brought in as an argument.

Ms Morotua assured the presenters that the MPWC takes the matter very seriously. The MPWC assured the summit that they will deliberate on all the inputs before a resolution is taken on the matter.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa