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Gender-based violence is an injustice affecting many women and girls worldwide. The problem is of significant magnitude and South Africa records some of the highest rates of sexual violence. Violence against sex workers is particularly pronounced. The report is not only outdated, having taken over three years to be released, but it completely ignores human rights research supported by recommendations by international instruments such as the CEDAW and Maputo Protocol.
It analysed the cases of sex workers who approached the WLC between and for information, guidance, and legal assistance to access their rights. It highlights the gap between the rights enshrined in the South African Constitution and the treatment of sex workers. We feel that a legal framework that criminalises sex work greatly increases the vulnerability of sex workers to violence and reduces the likelihood that such violence against them will be reported.
Very few perpetrators of crimes against sex workers are ever brought to justice. According to a systematic review of the research on violence against sex workers, many factors correlate with increased violence against them. Criminalisation is an expression of stigma against sex workers, and this is fuelled by the police. Criminal status increases their vulnerability to violence, and worsens the already widespread gender-based violence, is rife in South Africa.
The current legal framework marginalises sex workers to the fringes of South African society, where they are easy targets of abuse. Decriminalisation is a United Nations target for all countries and has been shown to be the most effective method for remedying such injustice. However, the only country to have fully decriminalised sex work is New Zealand.
New South Wales has the most liberal legislation in Australia with near decriminalisation—sex work, operating a sex work business and being a sex worker are all legal, provided this is done according to NSW laws and regulations. Street-based and indoor sex workers in New Zealand report better relationships with the police and feeling safer. Contrary to initial fears, decriminalisation has not led to the overall growth of the industry nor has trafficking increased.