Parliament, Wednesday, 30 May 2017 – Parliament’s Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC) has noted that the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) released its report on ‘Sexual Offences: Adult Prostitution’ on 26 May 2017.

The MPWC is deeply disappointed with the recommendations made IN the report. Committee Chairperson Ms Masefele Story Morutoa said notwithstanding vociferous public opinion from women’s rights groups and sex workers, the report concluded that changing the legislative framework could create an “extremely dangerous cultural shift juxtaposed against the high numbers of sexual crimes already committed”.

Consequently, it put forward two policy options, namely that of partial criminalisation (criminalising the buyer, not the sex worker) and the option of total criminalisation with diversion. It includes two proposed draft amendment Bills to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act). These legislative amendments are based on the models of partial criminalisation and that of total criminalisation with diversion.

The SALRC report seeks to review the fragmented legislative framework that currently regulates sex work within the larger framework of all statutory and common law sexual offences. It further seeks to identify alternative policy and legislative responses that might regulate, prevent or reduce sex work.

The report, made up of four chapters, covers an overview of the investigation and is followed by an examination of issues pertaining to sex workers, clients and third parties respectively. The report considers the policy options of different models, namely that of total criminalisation, partial criminalisation, regulation and non-criminalisation.

The Committee said while the report notes that sex work is linked to exploitation and gender-based violence, it oblivious to the fact that the legalisation of sex work would allow sex workers to access the criminal justice system. This has been pivotal to the calls made by many sex workers calling for full decriminalisation.

The Committee further said the report’s recommendations turn a deaf ear to the vociferous voice of sex workers in this regard and is thus not linked to evidence. “The full decriminalisation of sex work is the only model that respects the rights of sex workers with the potential to address the HIV crisis facing South Africa,” said Ms Morutoa.

The Committee also stated that while the legal response should take into account the high rate of violence against women, the challenges of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, it should also adopt a progressive, rights-based approach. “The report, in taking the stance of continued criminalisation, is out touch with how to promote women’s rights in allowing them to make choices about their bodies. It is patronising in its approach of seeking to protect women, while ignoring the voices of those who are in the industry,” said Ms Morutoa.

The Committee said that overwhelmingly the view is that such protection can best be achieved through full decriminalisation. The MPWC therefore will have a meeting tomorrow this regard and will be meeting to explore avenues to take this matter forward.


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