A spectacle at the spectacles
The “Perceiving Freedom” glasses sculpture on Cape Town’s Sea Point promenade looking towards Robben Island, commemorates late President Nelson Mandela and the values of freedom and equality. Human rights activists, including from Sonke Gender Justice, Sisonke Sex Workers Movement and SWEAT, will be honouring the lives lost in the “Sizzlers massacre”1 that took place in 2003 when nine men — seven sex workers — were murdered in Sea Point. The activists will erect a three meter mirror in front of the spectacles, symbolically directing the spectator’s gaze westwards towards where the Sizzlers gay massage parlour used to operate from.
The demonstration will raise awareness about the harmful laws used against sex workers in South Africa and the rest of the continent. Twelve years since the Sizzler massacre — and more than 20 years into democracy — South Africa still criminalises sex work and by doing so increases violence, discrimination, and intolerance against sex workers. Furthermore, the criminalisation impedes national responses to HIV. UNAIDS reports that female sex workers are 13.5 times more likely to be living with HIV than other women.
The criminalisation of sex work drives sex workers underground and increases stigma, which creates obstacles for sex workers to access vital health, legal, and social services. Considered criminals, sex workers are vulnerable to human rights violations and even violent death. Just two weeks ago, a sex worker was brutally murdered in Woodstock, Cape Town.
Activists will create a “spectacle at the spectacles”, encouraging passers-by to interact with sex workers and ask them questions. They will be invited to take selfies to tweet government officials demanding the decriminalisation of sex work.
- Ruvimbo Tenga
Sisonke Sex Worker Movement
072 885 6141
- Marlise Richter
Sonke Gender Justice
- Lesego Tlhwale