Parliament has been urged to consider passing a law that would decriminalize prostitution in South Africa.
The Commission for Gender Equality has handed a proposal to the portfolio committee on women, children and people with disabilities calling for the decriminalization of sex work.
Chairman of the gender commission Mfanazole Shozi said yesterday they were mobilizing various stakeholders for the government to reconsider its position on prostitution. He said the current situation should be revisited.
Chairperson of the portfolio committee Dorothy Ramodibe, an ANC MP, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The commission’s paper points out that most countries were grappling with the sex industry.
The paper called for legislation of prostitution in South Africa.
“The current position of total criminalization has not succeeded in addressing problems associated with sex work in the country,” said the gender commission in the paper.
The commission’s position was informed by studies conducted in countries like New Zealand and Australia.
“Legislation relating to sex work should adopt the principle that sex work is work, and allow the industry to be governed by the wealth of existing labor and business laws aimed at preventing unsafe, exploitative and unfair business practices,” said the paper.
New Zealand became the first country to decriminalize sex work when it passed the Prostitution Reform Act in 2003.
“One of the New Zealand’s key objectives in decriminalizing sex work was to improve sex workers’ safety,” said the paper.
The commission said studies in New Zealand and Australia offered strong and concrete evidence that decriminalization empowered sex workers to protect themselves from violence and improved relationships between sex workers and the police.
The law also reduced chances of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation of children.
“The Commission for Gender Equality acknowledges that in relation to our Constitution, every South African has human rights. It is in relation to the violation of those rights that we recommend decriminalization of sex work,” said the paper.
Criminalization violates sex workers’ rights to health and freedom of association, and prostitutes also face police abuse.