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CALL FOR ACTION: ACT AGAINST SOUTH AFRICA’S CRIMINALIZATION OF PURCHASE OF SEX SERVICES!

We are urging everyone to e-mail your own letter. The letter is below, and it can be sent as is, with your organization’s sign-on. I’ve also included other relevant information to make this as easy as possible. SWEAT of South Africa has asked for international support in fighting this amendment.
 
1. Text of the Proposed Language:
Engaging sexual services of person 18 years or older
10A. A person ("A") who unlawfully and intentionally engages the services of a person 18 years or older ("B"), with the consent of B for financial or other reward, favour or compensation to B or to a third person ("C")
(a) for purposes of the commission of a sexual act with B; or
(b) by committing a sexual act with B,
is guilty of the offence of engaging the sexual services of a person 18 years or older.
(the option below was added last week)
Option:
10A. A person ("A") who unlawfully and intentionally engages the services of a person 18 years or older ("B") for the purpose {Option: of the commission of} of engaging in a sexual act with B, for financial or other reward, favour or compensation to B or to a third person ("C"), irrespective or whether the sexual act is committed or not, is guilty of engaging the sexual services of a person 18 years or older.

2. Where/How to Send E-Mail:
In order to get them to read it, your e-mail will have to use the subject “Submission to the Sexual Offences Bill” and be addressed to Ms. Fatima Chohan-Kota and e-mailed to both lhendrickse@parliament.gov.za and psibisi@parliament.gov.za  

3. Text of the Letter:
23 October 2006
Fatima Chohan-Kota
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Justice Committee
E: lhendrickse@parliament.gov.zapsibisi@parliament.gov.za  
RE: Submission to the Sexual Offences Bill

Dear Ms. Chohan-Kota:
We, a group with extensive experience in policies and programs affecting sex workers, are writing concerning current efforts to amend the Sexual Offenses Bill. We continue to strongly support the South African government’s commitment to strengthen protections for sex workers. In fact, we are encouraged by the government’s 2002 decision to review current legislation concerning sex work, noting the need to review the range of options open to South Africa in approaching sex work.

However, we are concerned that the new proposed provision which criminalizes clients will fail to address the health and safety of adult sex workers, and will in fact create more harm for sex workers. This proposed amendment will not be effective in protecting the human rights of sex workers, and it runs counter to proven public health approaches. We join the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Sisonke, and other organizations working on issues affecting sex workers, in urging the Parliamentary Justice Committee to drop this provision from the Sexual Offenses Bill or at a minimum, hold oral hearings to further debate these concerns.

The proposed Section 10A criminalizes persons who “unlawfully and intentionally” engage the services of a person 18 years of older even “with the[ir]…consent for financial or other reward, favor or compensation…for purposes of the commission of a sexual act…or by committing a sexual act.” More recently proposed optional language is similar in its meaning and intent, and is even more restrictive. We recognize that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee may view this amendment as introducing nothing new into the law, since the Common Law already criminalizes accomplices to criminal acts (which includes sex work.) However, this provision introduces new elements into the law because it provides a new level of scrutiny to sex workers and to their clients, without addressing any of the factors that concern sex workers, such as having the ability to work and to support themselves and their families; being treated with full recognition of their human rights; and access to non-judgmental and appropriate healthcare.

The criminalization and penalization of the purchase of sex laid out in Section 10A will only harm sex workers:

• Sex Workers are Pushed Underground: Studies have shown that legislation criminalizing clients enacted in Sweden has met with poor results. Rather than offer any kind of opportunity or protection of rights, the law has merely had the effect of pushing sex workers into more underground and vulnerable arenas. Demand for sex workers has not been stopped—instead, prostitution has shifted into other venues because of the threat of arrest for clients. [1][1]

• Increased Danger of Violence: Sex workers are most vulnerable to violence in situations where sex work is criminalized or stigmatized and they are treated as outsiders or are not encouraged to avail themselves of legal protections. Sex workers around the world point not to their clients but to the state and its agents as the prime violators of their human rights. Extending the powers of law enforcement into yet another sphere of the lives of sex workers presents a great threat to the human rights of sex workers. South Africa’s proposed new amendment gives law enforcement additional powers which may be used to further exploit sex workers, from demands for money or sex to increased physical violence.

• The Health of Sex Workers are Compromised: When sex workers are pushed underground, it is almost impossible for sex workers to work as partners with public health programs to engage in HIV/AIDS and STI prevention. Additionally, outreach workers have a more difficult time meeting and interacting with sex workers, thus making joint efforts more difficult. In contrast to this kind of approach, which leads to invisibility of sex workers, Brazil’s receptive approach to sex work has been the most important factor in a significant decrease of the spreading of HIV/AIDS and STIs.
For all these reasons, we again urge the Committee to drop this provision from the Sexual Offenses Bill or at a minimum, hold oral hearings to further debate these concerns. This will ensure that those who are most affected, sex workers, become integral interlocutors in efforts to amend laws and policies. As the South African government and international experts have acknowledged, working respectfully with sex workers is essential to effectively fight abuses that threaten the lives and health of sex workers and their peers.

We respectfully await your response.
Sincerely,

Partners