On 2 April activists and sex workers held a protest at the Perceiving Freedom sculpture in Sea Point to commemorate the 2003 Sizzlers Massacre and raise awareness of the need to decriminalize sex work.
Members of the public were invited to “ask a sex worker” and encouraged to tweet selfies of the protest to parliamentary leaders.
The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Sonke Gender Justice, and Sisonke National Sex Workers Movement collaborated to organise the protest. In 2003 nine men, seven of whom were sex workers, were murdered at the Sizzlers massage parlour in Sea Point. On Thursday the group of 25 activists observed a moment of silence at the Sizzlers house. They then moved down to the sculpture, a giant pair of glasses, to continue the protest by “creating a spectacle at the spectacles”.
Ruvimbo Tenga, media spokesperson for Sisonke, explained that the murders received media attention and a public outcry, but that today this is not the case. “Sex workers are still being murdered today, but people don’t take it seriously,” she said. Sex work remains a criminal act in South Africa, which leaves sex workers vulnerable to violence and unable to access legal and health services. SWEAT, Sonke Gender Justice and the Sisonke movement advocate for the decriminalization of sex work on this basis.