Sex work in South Africa: The Case for Decriminalistion

Sex work or prostitution in South Africa is currently criminalised.  Documented experiences indicate that sex workers, due to the nature of their work and the working conditions, are more likely to experience gender based violence and discrimination in accessing key services. As the work that they do is criminalised and often subject to moral scrutiny, sex workers are left vulnerable to a number of human rights abuses. This group of vulnerable individuals continues to face and live with the criminalisation and prejudice and its consequences on a daily basis.

The South African government is bound by constitutional and international legal obligations to ensure sex workers’ freedom from discrimination. South Africa violates this right by criminalising sex work because laws against sex work disproportionately affects women and criminalisation contributes to the stigma and discrimination sex workers face from public and private actors.

This panel will look at the impact of criminalisation of sex work on the lives of sex workers, the abuses they continue to endure at the hands of both public and private agents and will explore the impact that decriminalisation will have in ensuring that the rights of sex workers as enshrined in the Constitution and international law is upheld, respected and protected.

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