Activists for sex worker rights in South Africa are leading a sophisticated national campaign to decriminalize sex work. This Article serves as an act of solidarity with these activists’ continued efforts to fight for and realize sex workers’ human rights by examining the negative impact that criminalizing prostitution has on sex workers’ rights and presenting evidence-based arguments to show that South Africa should enact legislation to fully decriminalize sex work. South African sex workers’ real-life experiences with violence, police abuse, and lack of access to health care and the justice system, highlighted through interviews conducted by the authors during fieldwork in South Africa in November 2011, are included in this Article as testimony to the human rights violations caused by the criminalization of sex work.
Part I demonstrates how the legal frameworks of criminalization, partial criminalization, and legalization and regulation of sex work are costly, ineffective, and harmful approaches to sex work. Part II presents evidence from New Zealand, the only country to fully decriminalize sex work, to show the positive impact decriminalization has had on the lives and rights of sex workers. The experience of New Zealand suggests that making sex work legal through decriminalization has a positive impact on violence against sex workers, does not result in an increase in trafficking into forced prostitution or youth in the sex trade, and has no influence on the level of demand for sex work.
Part III advocates for the decriminalization of sex work in South Africa as the only legal regime that will uphold sex workers’ rights. Finally, Part IV demonstrates how decriminalizing sex work will fulfill South Africa’s constitutional and human rights commitments by promoting sex workers’ rights to free choice of work, association, access to health care, security of the person, and human dignity.
The human rights abuse of sex workers in South Africa is alarming and demands immediate attention. Seven out of 10 sex workers who approached the WLC to report a violation had experienced some form of abuse by the police. Sex workers experience violence during arrest by police officers who routinely beat them, pepper spray them and sexually assault them.
This report draws on the views and voices of more than 300 sex workers in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Limpopo, all of whom approached the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) for information on their rights or legal assistance between September 2009 and July 2011.
Over the last two decades sexuality has emerged as a key theme in debates about citizenship, leading to the development of the concept of sexual citizenship. This article reviews this literature and identifies four main areas of critical framing: work that contests the significance of sexuality to citizenship; critiques that focus on the possibilities and limitations of mobilising the language of citizenship in sexual politics; analyses of sexual citizenship in relation to nationalisms and border making; and literature that critically examines western constructions of sexuality and sexual politics underpinning understandings of sexual citizenship. In order to progress the field theoretically, the article seeks to extend critiques of sexual citizenship focusing on two key aspects of its construction: the sexual citizen-subject and spaces of sexual citizenship. It argues for a critical rethink that encompasses a de-centring of a ‘western-centric’ focus in order to advance understandings of how sexual citizenship operates both in the Global North and South.
Original title of the report in German: Unterstützung des Ausstiegs aus der Prostitution – Kurzfassung des Abschlussberichtes der wissenschaftlichen Begleitung zum Bundesmodellprojekt