Support for the decriminalisation of sex work grows

For Immediate Release
02 April 2019

Contact: Kholi Buthelezi, Sisonke National Coordinator
Katlego Rasebitse, Sisonke Media Liaison Officer

“We will work with all stakeholders to develop policy around the decriminalisation of sex work,” President Cyril Ramaphosa stated as part of his keynote address at the Presidential launch of the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Declaration and the official opening of the Booysens Magistrate’s Court in Oakdene on Thursday 28 April 2019.

Sex worker rights activists in South Africa meet the President’s comments with cautious optimism. The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce and Sisonke Sex Worker Movement of South Africa have been calling for the full decriminalisation of adult, consensual sex work for over 25 years.

President Ramaphosa, former South African National Aids Council (SANAC) chairperson, told the crowd that government is working with partners to review existing laws and policies that relate to gender-based violence and femicide to determine if these were still adequate.

Sisonke National Coordinator, Kholi Buthelezi said: “We hope President Ramaphosa will put into action what he said when launching the Sex Work HIV National Plan launched 11 March 2016 saying ‘nobody should be deprived of their right to life, dignity and health just because they are poor or marginalized or stigmatized.

“We are availing ourselves as a leading national sex work lead movement as decriminalizing sex work would not only fight gender based violence but it will help end painful stigma & discrimination associated with this work and gender based violence and mitigate the HIV/AIDS pandemic in our country,” added Ms Buthelezi.

Showing his displeasure on gender-based violence, President Ramaphosa said, the beginning of a new era in the fight against those who bring harm towards South Africa’s women and children.

SWEAT Advocacy Manager, Ishtar Lakhani commented: “We are pleased that the office of the Presidency has recognised that decriminalisation of sex work is vital in reducing gender-based violence in South Africa. However, we hope that this recognition translates in to much needed action.”

SWEAT and Sisonke has vowed to continue advocating for sex workers’ rights of and legislative reform. The organisations are to ensure that the office of the Presidency is held accountable for the commitments made.


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