When COVID-19 reached South Africa in March 2020, sex workers called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to include them as an essential service, as they were hard hit by the lockdown.
No contact meant that they couldn’t make money during the pandemic, but these workers face another challenge in the country because of the criminal status of sex work (selling and buying sex is currently illegal in the country).
“They experience physical and sexual abuse, victimisation and discrimination from a broad range of stakeholders, and are unable to seek protection or justice because of their illegal status,” the Commission for Gender Equality explains.
Sex work is criminalised in the Criminal Code, and municipal by-laws also contain provisions that prohibit sex work such as “importuning any person for the purpose of prostitution” and “soliciting”.
Government is now looking into the decriminalisation of sex work, while Deputy Justice Minister, John Jeffery, will have a series of meetings with stakeholders including religious organisations and traditional leaders, reports eNCA.
“The issue of decriminalisation may be a contested one, but is also one that needs to be debated and a decision taken, as the issue has been one which has been delayed for far too long,” said Jeffery as per The Citizen.
The dates of these meetings have not yet been confirmed.