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SWEAT (Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force) launched a petition against police harassment

Petition against police harassment was launched together with court application against illegal arrest of sex workers. According to Valda Lucas, the 3rd of March event spokesperson, "about 60 sex workers from the Cape Metropole as well as Beaufort West will look at ways and means in which they can protect themselves from unscrupulous clients and police harassment, be conscientised about their rights and they will have a sense of belonging to a larger community", she says. The aim of the day is to openly celebrate and share amongst themselves the achievements and challenges facing the sex worker industry in terms of decriminalising the profession.

The groundbreaking court application made by SWEAT was heard two days later, on March 5 in the Cape High Court. The organization want to prevent the continued unlawful and wrongful arrest of sex workers by members of Cape Town City Police.

The edited summary of the court application:
Sex Workers are another marginalized group in society who are subjected to acts of violence that we saw under the apartheid regime such as, detention without trial. We have ample evidence of police abusing their powers and taking the law into their own hands, like arresting sex workers when they know that the person will be detained without full access to the law.

When bringing to the attention of the media these acts of violence and misuse of power, the response by some police officers, as seen in Johannesburg, Claremont and Cape Town, is to increase acts of violence against sex workers. A similar response the police and army employed under apartheid when the exposure of gross human rights violations occurred.

Clearly, not all police officers are unlawful and moreover, some support the decimalization of sex work, but we need to hold to court those who do break the law. Just because sex workers are on the margins of society does not make them a legitimate target of hate crime. It is difficult for sex workers to come out in public and challenge human rights violations due to both the fear of further stigmatization and having their rights disregarded. This leaves sex workers vulnerable to exploitation and acts of hate crime.

When you take away the rights of sex workers you are one step away from taking everybody’s human rights – today sex workers, tomorrow any other person!

Let us hope that our democracy will embrace the rights of all else we shall continue to live in the shadow of apartheid. And finally let us remember a simple truth, sex workers are human beings with human rights!