9 February 2018

South Africa: Parliament's Women's Caucus to Host Sex Work Summit

Parliament's multi-party women's caucus plans to host a summit on sex work in light of the ANC's resolution to have the practice decriminalised, it said on Thursday.

The summit will be hosted on March 5 in Parliament, the woman's caucus said in a statement.

The summit will hear views from stakeholders on the South African Law Reform Commission's (SALRC) report on adult prostitution.

The report, Sexual Offences: Adult Prostitution , was released in May 2017 by Justice Minister Michael Masutha.

Sex work is currently a criminal offence in South Africa and the country has some of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world - particularly in the sex work industry - with many cases left unreported for a variety of reasons.

Following the release of the report, the women's caucus said the full decriminalisation of sex work was the only way to protect the rights of sex workers and address the country's HIV/Aids crisis.

At the time, caucus chairperson Masefele Morutoa said the authors of the SALRC report were oblivious to the fact that legalising sex work would allow sex workers to access the criminal justice system.

"This has been pivotal to the calls made by many sex workers calling for full decriminalisation," she said.

Interest from the public

The report contains two scenarios of how government could approach the issue. It suggested that government retain a totally criminalised legal framework, which was the SALRC's preferred option.

The second favours the partial criminalisation of adult prostitution. It criminalises all role-players, except the person providing the sexual service. Experts say this could lead to exploited women being subjected to further violence and harm.

However, in a statement on Thursday, Morutoa said the caucus had received "huge" interest from the public who wished to comment on the matter.

The caucus had initially planned to host the summit in October 2017.

Morutoa said it was inundated with requests to postpone the summit due to the short deadline for submissions from organisations.

"In order to make this an open, inclusive and transparent exercise, which are core values of a democratic Parliament, we had to consider these requests and respond positively," she said.

"The caucus feels it is more relevant to host this engagement in order to enrich the discussions around the best model for decriminalisation. The Department of Justice and Correctional Services will also play a pivotal role in this summit, since it is now tasked with formulating a policy framework and thereafter a bill in furtherance of the resolution on sex work."

Interested stakeholders can make written submissions until February 26, she said.

Source: News24

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