Decriminalising sex work: Highlights from the dialogue hosted by SANAC and Mail & Guardian

SANAC in partnership with the Mail & Guardian hosted a dialogue on the decriminalisation of sex work in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 26 July 2017. The aim of the dialogue was to create a platform for critical stakeholders to debate the various legal options for sex work.

The dialogue was moderated by Mia Malan, Founding Director of Bhekisisa who also serves as the Mail & Guardian’s Health Editor.

The dialogue was led by the following panellists:

John Jeffrey, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development. Jeffrey is an admitted attorney and has been a member of parliament since 1999. He is also a former member of the Justice and Constitutional Development Portfolio Committee where he was instrumental in shaping a number of pieces of legislation, such as the Child Justice Act, the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act and the Protection from Harassment Act.

Madri Bruwer, a manager at Straatwerk, an entity which ministers and conducts outreach among individuals involved in sex work.

Grizelda Grootboom,  author of the book Exit which chronicled her journey as a survivor of human trafficking and was nomintaed for a South African Literary Award. She is an activist currently working with Embrace Dignity, an entity that raises awareness of human trafficking.

Marlise Richter, Head of Sonke Gender Justice ‘s Policy, Development and Advocacy Unit. She overseas projects on topics such as prison reform advocacy and the decriminalisation of sex work. She is a Fulbright Scholar who holds a Masters of Law and a PhD in Public Health – specifically looking at sex worker access to health care services in sub-Saharan Africa.

Major Margaret Stafford, the national coordinator for The Salvation Army‘s Southern Africa territory anti-human trafficking desk. She has been a pastor with the Salvation Army for 28 years.

Nosipho Vidima, who chaired the SANAC Technical Working Group for Sex Work in 2015 that led to the development of the South African National Sex Worker HIV Plan (2016-2019). She coordinates the #SayHerName campaign, which documents the deaths of sex workers in South Africa. She is also the Human Rights and Lobbying Officer at the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and was named as one of M&G’s top 200 young leaders in SA in 2017.

In today’s edition of the Mail & Guardian, there is a pull-out supplement about the subject matter. Please get yourself a copy.

SANAC Acting CEO, Dr Connie Kganakga kicked off the conversation making reference to the National Sex Worker Worker Plan formulated by SANAC structures:

Deputy Minister John Jeffrey pointed out that government recognises the importance of decriminalisation but it is a complex issue:

Well known human rights and gender activist, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (a.k.a ‘Dr T’), attended the dialogue and challenged the panelists on various issues:

Panelist and author of the book ‘Exit’, Grizelda Grootboom, who is also a human trafficking survivor raised concerns about decriminalisation of sex work:

Major Margaret Stafford from the Salvation Army argued that sex work is about the money:

And of course, some argued in favour of full decriminalisation of sex work and the associated benefits:




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