International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Today, sex workers and sex worker advocates commemorate the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. In provinces around the country, sex workers and community activists will gather to pay tribute to their many colleagues who have been subjected to violence, abuse, death and brutality at the hands of police, clients and the general community.

In particular, we remember Kleintjie, a 19-year sex workers stabbed to death in Kenilworth, Cape Town in August.

We also evoke the memory of Desiree, a 39-year old mother of one who was raped and decapitated in Chatsworth, Durban in the same month.

Research has shown that female sex workers are 18 times more likely to be murdered than other women.

Sonke stands in solidarity with sex workers around the world who bear the brunt of working within a profession that is criminalised, a fact that has far-reaching effects on sex worker – and community – health and safety.

We note that the criminalisation of sex work:

  • Increases violence in the sex work context
  • Drives sex workers underground and away from services
  • Increases stigma and create obstacles to accessing health and social programmes
  • Reduces sex workers’ power, rendering them vulnerable to violence, human rights violations, corruption, HIV and ill-health

Today we renew our call on the South African government to tackle these harmful effects by decriminalising sex work; and to draft, fully cost and implement a gender-based violence National Strategic Plan. We also call on South African society to interrogate and resist the stigma attached to sex work.

Media Contacts

  • Marlise Richter, Sonke Gender Justice,, 021-423-7088
  • Lesego Tlhwale, Sex Worker Education & Advocacy Taskforce, 021-448-7875