Asijiki Coalition for the Decriminalisation of Sex Work celebrates President Ramaphosa’s commitment to decriminalise sex work


On 5 June 2019, the Asijiki Coalition for the Decriminalisation of Sex Work, its members and allies will gather at Parliament to thank President Cyril Ramaphosa for his commitment to the decriminalisation of sex work and to the safeguarding sex worker human rights during the signing of the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Declaration (March 2019).

When President Ramaphosa launched the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) ‘National Sex Work Sector Plan 2016-2019’ he presented the leader of the Sex Work Sector, Ms Kholi Buthelezi, with a sunflower as a symbol of his solidarity. As a gesture of appreciation, we have invited Ramaphosa to receive a bouquet of sunflowers from sex workers and their allies and to briefly address our members in front of the gates of Parliament.

The history of the commitments made by President Ramaphosa is significant to Asijiki Coalition and its members. A brief summary of this history is provided in the attached document.

We invite media partners to join us for this event.

Time: 11h30 for 12h00
Place: Corner of Roeland and Plein Street, outside Parliament, Cape Town
Date: 5 June 2019

For more information, please contact Constance Mathe at

See the Facebook Event for more details.

For Media Comment:

#SexWorkPromise History

June 2015

In June 2015, at the opening of the 7th South African AIDS Conference held in Durban, then Deputy President Ramaphosa acknowledged sex workers in his opening address, highlighting an often ignored population – one criminalised in South Africa.1

March 2016

In March 2016, at the launch of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) National Sex Work Sector Plan, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (as he was then), in his role as SANAC Chair, made a promise to look into legislation and ensure that sex workers have the realisation of their human rights and social justice. He stated that sex workers could not be denied their humanity and their right to dignity:

“whatever views individuals may hold about sex work, whatever the statutes may say about the legality of sex work, we cannot deny the humanity and inalienable rights of people who engage in sex work […] We launch this plan knowing that our national effort to arrest new HIV infections will not succeed if sex workers are disempowered, marginalised and stigmatised.”2

During the ceremony at that event, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa embraced Ms Kholi Buthelezi, the national leader of the Sisonke sex worker movement,3 and handed her a sunflower4 indicating it was from him and the rest of the country, and was symbolic of the fact that sex workers are the sunflowers of South Africa. Deputy President Ramaphosa also stated: “sex work is essentially work” and that “we cannot deny the human and unalienable rights of people who engage in sex work”.5

Ms Kholi Buthelezi kept that sunflower, as a constant reminder of Deputy President Ramaphosa’s promise, and his symbolic commitment made through that gesture.

July 2016

In July 2016, at the 21st International AIDS Conference, themed “access equity rights now”, which was held in Durban, decriminalisation of sex work was one of the topics on the agenda.6 Ms Kholi Buthelezi and Deputy President Ramaphosa’s paths crossed again. Ms Buthelezi brought the now dried sunflower with her to present to Deputy President Ramaphosa as a reminder of his commitment and promise to sex workers – sex work is essentially work, and we cannot deny the human and inalienable rights of people who engage in sex work.

March 2019

In March 2019, President Ramaphosa committed to decriminalisation of sex work at the signing of the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Declaration, where President Ramaphosa said he “will work with all stakeholders to develop policy around the decriminalisation of sex work”.7

June 2019

In June 2019, the Asijiki Coalition for the Decriminalisation of Sex Work intends presenting its thanks, and a sunflower to President Ramaphosa as a symbol of his #SexWorkPromise and commitments and as a way for Asijiki’s members to thank President Ramaphosa and illustrate our gratitude to him for his continued commitment over the years to the inalienable human rights of sex workers, and the inalienable human rights of all people in South Africa.


  1. “Sex Workers Acknowledged by Deputy President”, 8 June 2015, available at
  2. Pretorius, W “Ramaphosa launches ‘historic’ plan to aid sex workers News24 11 March 2016, available at
  3. SANAC News, Issue 14, January – March 2016, available at
  4. Wilhelm-Solomon, M “The Struggle Against Silence: Media Responses to Decriminalisating Sex Work in South Africa and Zimbabwe” Migration and Health Project Southern Africa (maHp) 28 May 2016, available at
  5. Gonzalez, L “Sex workers to get HIV treatment, ARVs” Health24, 24 March 2016, available at
  6. “AIDS conference: Spotlight on HIV and sex work” SA Governmental News Agency, 19 July 2016, available at
  7. Mafokwane, P “Sex work might be decriminalised” Sowetan Live 29 March 2019, available at