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SOUTH AFRICA..........South African church wants sex work legalized

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It is the oldest job in the world and it has for quite a long time now, been regarded as a hateful and fallen choice of work. Prostitution exists and will continue to exist despite bans and their legal status, due to reasons like poverty or unforeseen situations. However, presently, sex workers in South Africa are happy. 

They are happy that the social stigma that usually accompany their works may soon ebb away as religious leaders in some quarters are recognizing them as rightful members of the society who should not be discriminated against or criminalized.

One of these religious leaders is Reverend Alan Storey of the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town, South Africa. Storey together with members of the Asijiki Coalition for the Decriminalization of Sex Work, on Thursday, hoisted a banner over the church steeple in support of the decriminalization of sex work. The banner, which read “Jesus was the first to decriminalize sex work”, is part of the church’s Yellow Banner Theology.

According to the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), this is the first time a South African religious institution has made a public statement in support of the decriminalization of sex work in South Africa. “What the criminalization of sex work has done is make a vulnerable group of people even more vulnerable. The unintended consequences of criminalizing sex work are horrific.” Storey said.

He explained that the criminalization of sex work disempowers sex workers from insisting on safe sex practices with clients. “This makes sex workers more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.” Storey said that it also adds to the social stigma and “almost validates their social outcast status”. He said this can make it difficult for sex workers to access health services and law enforcement.

“Speaking on behalf of all sex workers in South Africa, we are so happy that we have pastors who recognize sex workers as human beings,” said Pamela Chakuvinga, assistant national coordinator at national sex workers’ movement Sisonke.

Chakuvinga said that there are religious leaders in Cape Town who think it is evil to do sex work. “They say that sex work is something demonic … They pray for sex workers to leave sex work.”

Constance Nothando Mathe, co-ordinator at Asijiki said: “I would like to emphasise to those pastors that it is not their duty to judge. Only God can do that. They are there to preach the word of God.”

“The church is a non-judgmental space, so people should not judge sex workers,” said Mathe.

Prostitution in South Africa is illegal for both buying and selling sex, as well as related activities such as brothel keeping and pimping. However, it remains widespread. Law enforcement is poor.  In 2013 the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT) estimated that there were between 121,000 and 167,000 prostitutes in South Africa. HIV, child prostitute (including sex tourism and human trafficking are problems in the country Decriminalization has been under active discussion since 2009.

Currently the South African Law Reform Commission has four proposals that were submitted for public discussion ranging from criminalization to decriminalization. In the run-up to the 2010 Football World Cup, there were calls to decriminalize and regulate prostitution when an estimated 40,000 prostitutes were expected to travel to South Africa for the tournament.

Meanwhile, while some countries choose to outright ban the practice, while other countries have tried regulating prostitution, providing sex workers with health and social benefits. Some of the countries where prostitution is legal include,  Netherlands, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, France, Germany, Ecuador, Greece, Indonesia, Denmark, Colombia, Canada, Brazil, Belgium and most African countries.


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