Why sex work should be decriminalised in South Africa


Human Rights Watch and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) have released a new report recommending the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa, in order to protect the safety and wellbeing of women, and respond to the HIV pandemic.

The report was produced between HRW and SWEAT, and uses information from interviews with sex workers, government officials and nongovernmental experts in health, law, and sex workers’ rights from across four provinces of South Africa. Almost three-quarters of the sex workers Human Rights Watch interviewed have been arrested multiple times, some as often as two or three times per month. Sex workers believed that their arrests were part of a wider pattern of police harassment that includes extortion, coercive sex, and insulting language.

The report documents how the criminalisation of sex work fuels human rights violations against sex workers, including by police officers, and undermines sex workers’ right to health. The report also provides recommendations to reform the legal system to provide protection for sex workers.

You can download the 78-page report above, or read more on the HRW website