Female sex workers die while the CGE remains silent

In response to inaction by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), sex workers and gender and human rights activists will stage a peaceful demonstration at the offices of CGE (132 Adderly Street, 5th Floor, Absa building, Cape Town) from 11h00-12h00 today (September 5, 2014).

In 2012, sixteen female and one transgender sex worker provided sworn statements to the Women’s Legal Centre requesting the CGE to investigate the systematic gross human right violations facing sex workers in South Africa. Despite several attempts (by both sex workers and rights organisations) to push for speedy action from the CGE, their response has been slow and inadequate and they have reneged to commitments made in meetings. Two years later, sex workers continue to suffer as they face inaction from the CGE.

To date, no concrete progress has been made since the request for an investigation, and affidavits obtained by Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) show that sex workers have suffered severely (experiencing harassment, attacks and sexual assault) while waiting for the CGE to act.

On September 1, the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Sisonke, Sonke Gender Justice, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Women’s Legal Centre wrote to the CGE requesting an immediate response, but we have not yet heard a response to our letter.

We express deep concern that while the CGE adds delay upon delay, the targeted killing of sex workers continues. We join sex workers in judging these delays as an indication of CGE’s failure on their mandate, and as tragically irresponsible considering that lives are being lost.

We demand that the CGE:

  1. Expedite the investigation of the original complaint now
  2. Petition the South African Law Reform Commission and the Minister of Justice to finalise law reform processes urgently
  3. Send a communication to government on the systematic abuse of sex workers and take appropriate action
  4. Call for Parliament to pass legislation that prohibits condoms from being as evidence as proof of sex work
  5. Approach the South African Police Services (SAPS) to issue written and verbal instructions to police to cease the confiscation of condoms from sex workers and to stop harassing sex work outreach programmes; and also to support and facilitate sex work sensitisation training of police.
  6. Respond to the issues outlined in our correspondence of 1 September 2014 and draft terms of reference to the working group

Media Contacts

Ms Cherith Sanger
Sex Worker and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) Advocacy
021 448 7875

Dr Marlise Richter
Sonke Gender Justice
021 423 7088