Cabinet has approved the publishing of a bill for public comment that could essentially decriminalise sex work– a move that sex worker advocacy groups say will transform sex worker’s lives.
Sex workers could soon ply their trade without fear of getting arrested as the government seeks ways to mitigate gender-based violence in the industry.
The new legislation will not only mean sex workers will no longer be at risk of being arrested for working but will also have improved access to public and financial services, according to advocacy groups.
Last week, Cabinet gave the green light for the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill of 2002 to be put to the public for their input. The bill repeals the Sexual Offences Act (previously Immorality Act), and Section 11 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007, to decriminalise the sale and purchase of adult sexual services.
The Bill seeks to respond to several proposals from the national strategic plan on gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). Once passed into law, it will among other things protect sex workers against abuse and exploitation.
A Cabinet statement reads: “The proposals of this bill respond to the list of interventions proposed in pillar 3 (protection, safety and justice) of the National Strategic Plan on GBVF, which enjoins the criminal justice system to provide protection, safety and justice for survivors of GBVF, and to effectively hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. Once passed into law, it will protect sex workers against abuse and exploitation.”
The legislation has been long time coming, advocacy groups said.
Phumla Williams, deputy director-general of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) added that the proposed law would exclude children.
“The decriminalisation excludes children… I think the bill is very clear that children are excluded,” she said.
“You will be prosecuted if you involve sexual activities with minors.”
Source: News24, IOL, image from Twitter: @CapeTalk