The National Sex Worker Movement of South Africa ( Sisonke) , Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) together with various stakeholders and other organisations including Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Development Service (SAFAIDS) has on Friday, 17 September 2021 embraced the spirit of solidarity during Limpopo Sex Worker Pride held in Polokwane under the theme “sex work is work, my work should not cost me my life”.
This comes after sex workers in the Province face unacceptable levels of violence , stigma, discrimination and other human rights violations, therefore it puts them in situations making them considerably more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Both Sisonke and SWEAT advocates for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa by raising public awareness of the human rights violations suffered by sex workers under the outdated criminal legal framework.
Limpopo Sisonke, Media Laison Officer , Mpho Lekgwatha says the main aim of sex worker pride in the Province is to create visibility and make the society respect their work. “People should stop labelling us , calling us names, discriminating and stigmatising us, we are human beings and we deserve to live with dignity and be protected against the law” Lekgwatha said.
Sisonke Limpopo Provincial Co-ordinator, Ms Linda Dumba says they want an involvement of the Justice system to intervene in protecting sex workers experiencing violence in their perspective workplaces. “Limpopo is considered as a border Province and this has made a lot of unemployed migrants to venture into sex work since they could not find employment due to legal documentations and the police arrest them claiming it’s border jumping , force sleeping with vulnerable sex workers and demands bribery money from them saying sex work is criminalized” said Dumba.
Dumba continued by saying they are having a good relationship with the Department of Health through other organisations working with them in making sure sex safety packs such as condoms and lubricants are distributed to various sex worker’s workplaces also the Department is playing a huge role making sure they get tested for Sexuality related illnesses and access treatments. “all we ask for is visibility and recognition from the civil society, we would also like to be regarded as essential workers since Covid-19 regulations affected us, get registered by the Labour Department, have Unemployment Insurance Funds, also contribute towards the economy” emphasised Dumba.
Furthermore, SWEAT Human Rights Defender Josephine Malema says they advocates for sex workers health and human rights through the removal of structural and legal barriers which impact on the provision of HIV, TB and STI services also creating a safe space where sex workers find a voice and offers psychosocial support since most sex workers face stigma, suffers from depression, anxiety and face secondary victimization by the police. “I urge sex workers in the Province of Limpopo to meet us half way by complying and keeping safe at all times, working at a well secured place, avoiding the abuse of drugs & alcohol and always utilising protecting during their work” said Malema.