The South African government has proposed decriminalizing prostitution in order to combat rising violence against women.
According to the Justice Department’s legislation, offering and using sexual services will no longer be considered a crime.
According to associations, there are approximately 150,000 prostitutes in the country.
“Decriminalization is hoped to reduce human rights violations against sex workers,” Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said at a press conference on Friday ( December 9).
“It would also allow sex workers better access to care and protection, better working conditions, and less discrimination and stigma,” he added.
A surge of violence against women has been reported in South Africa, one of the nations with the largest HIV epidemic in the world.
According to police statistics made public in November, there were 13% more rapes and sexual assaults between 2017–2018 and 2021–2022. Not including those that go unreported, a rape is reported to the police every 12 minutes.
According to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the number of women murdered increased by 52% in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year.
SWEAT, a group that advocates for prostitutes’ rights, hailed the bill as “incredible news,” saying that if sex workers are no longer classified as criminals, they will be better able to cooperate with the police in the fight against violence.
A recent crime spree that resulted in the gang rape of eight women in July as well as the discovery of six bodies, some of which were thought to be missing prostitutes, in a Johannesburg building in October, have shocked the country.
One of the most liberal constitutions in the world, South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution permits progressive laws on abortion and gay marriage, but sex workers have long been stigmatized.
Recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa decreed that gender-based violence should be regarded as the primary “pandemic” afflicting the nation because new “horrific” crimes are reported in the media every single day.
The justice minister promised that the regulation of the sex industry would be covered later; the bill, which has been made available for public comment, only deals with decriminalization.
The bill must then be approved by Parliament, which will take several months.