Parliament, Thursday, 01 June 2017 – Parliament’s Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC) has voiced its disappointment with the South African Law Reform Commission’s (SALRC) report on Sexual Offences: Adult Prostitution, saying this is “unacceptable”.

This follows a meeting yesterday of the MPWC in which the SALRC report and its recommendation that adult sex work should not be decriminalised were discussed. Committee Chairperson Ms Masefele Story Morutoa said adult sex workers have been asking for some time for decriminalisation, to no avail. She said ignoring their views could lead to things “exploding”.

The MPWC also voiced its concern about the limits of the SALRC’s consultation process before making recommendations. The Committee further felt that the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) should have been allowed to give more direction, as it has done extensive research on adult sex work, eventually calling for its decriminalisation. “We have to look at this from a human rights position rather than from a moral position,” Ms Morutoa said.

The MPWC noted the concern of the SALRC regarding child prostitution and human trafficking. The Committee said it is clear that sex worker organisations are not in favour of these and decriminalisation should exclude them.

The MPWC repeated its concern to balance the strong opinion from women’s rights groups and sex workers in favour of decriminalisation and the SALRC report, which concluded that changing the legislative framework could create an “extremely dangerous cultural shift juxtaposed against the high numbers of sexual crimes already committed”.

The SALRC put forward two policy options, namely that of partial criminalisation (criminalising the buyer, not the sex worker) or total criminalisation with diversion, including 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 Committee said the decriminalisation of sex work would allow sex workers to access the criminal justice system within a regulated framework. The MPWC said that overwhelmingly the view is that such protection can best be achieved through full decriminalisation. The MPWC will meet tomorrow to deliberate further and will be meeting to explore avenues to take the matter forward. At a later stage, the Committee will have public hearings on the matter.


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