All countries struggle with the legal treatment of prostitution or sex work, a practice that is as old as history itself. South Africa is no exception. The current legal situation in South Africa involves the criminalization of sex work with consequences such as the abuse of sex workers’ rights, violence against them and abusive treatment by the police. Very often societal perceptions of sex work are informed by religious opinion that views sex work as “sin” and sex workers as “fallen or sinful” women, splitting the world into a dichotomy of good and bad girls/women, and treating it as a moral issue. These views very rarely stigmatize the buyers of sex work who are mostly men.
This report provides a rights-based approach and the official position of the Commission for Gender Equality, but highlighting the current discourses on sex work and providing alternative arguments that the current criminalization of sex work is unconstitutional and a violation of human rights.