SA: Decision to make sex work legal on hold

June 26 2009 at 11:39AM
By Clayton Barnes

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development says it will consider a proposal to decriminalise prostitution – but that a decision will be made only after the World Cup.

Speaking before the department’s budget vote this week, director-general of justice Menzi Simelane said decriminalising and regulating the industry would ensure the protection of sex workers.

“The law provides for the protection of all South Africans. Decriminalisation of prostitution may be an option,” said Simelane.

Sex workers were often harassed by police and this was cause for concern, he said.

“There was recently a case in the Cape High Court where it was ruled that police officers cannot arrest sex workers unless they intend to prosecute. They can’t be arrested for, say, loitering.”

Collen Msibi, spokesperson for Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, said on Thursday the department’s was at a “consultative stage” on the issue.

“We are awaiting the document of submissions from the SA Law Reform Commission before submitting the final draft to Parliament. But before then, we will consult all groups concerned and the public,” said Msibi.

“We can’t say legislation will be in place by 2010, but most definitely soon thereafter.”

Lobby group the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) welcomed the department’s stance.

Sweat advocacy co-ordinator Vivienne Lalu said: “It’s wonderful news that the department is beginning to take us seriously. We have been fighting for them to move on this for years.”

Lalu said Sweat was making submissions to the SA Law Reform Commission.

In May, the commission developed a discussion document to consider the need for law reform on adult prostitution and to identify alternative policy as well as legislative responses to regulate, prevent, deter or reduce prostitution.

The secondary aim of the document was to review the fragmented legislative framework that regulated adult prostitution and to enhance alignment with international human rights obligations for the country.

Under the law, the voluntary selling and buying of adult sex and all related acts are criminal offences.

The commission proposed that the Sexual Offences Act and Section 11 of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act be repealed and new adult prostitution reform legislation enacted.

The discussion paper was also produced with the goal of public hearings being held to elicit comments that would be used to assist the commission in preparing a report and draft legislation.

“All options presented in the paper include a set of questions that seek to elicit public inputs that will shape legislative proposals to be included in the report,” said the commission.

The closing date for submissions to the SA Law Reform Commission was June 30, after which a decision would be made at cabinet level, said Simelane.

Errol Naidoo, chairperson of the Family Policy Institute, said legalising prostitution would lead to moral decay and more child rape.

“We are completely against the government’s decision to even consider this proposal.

“Menzi Simelane is just talking without knowing what the actual stats are. Research indicates that prostitution is dominated by organised crime and drugs. If this is legalised, it will just move the spotlight off the industry. We are facing a massive catastrophe.”

Naidoo said he and a group of international sex industry experts were putting together a document outlining why the government should put the brakes on plans to legalise and regulate prostitution.

This article was originally published on page 8 of Cape Argus on June 26, 2009

Original at IOL

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