SANAC in collaboration with the National Sex Worker Sector, government, and development partners hosted the launch of South Africa’s National Sex Worker HIV, TB & STI Plan under the theme: Decriminalise Sex Work – Advance Health and Human Rights NOW! on 28 October 2021 in Johannesburg.
The launch was attended by 100 sex workers from all over the country and graced by both the Hon. Deputy Minister of Health, Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo and the Hon. Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr. John Jeffrey.
Speaking at the launch, the CEO of SANAC Dr. Thembisile Xulu said that “Criminalization is inextricably linked to the on-going human rights violations and inadequate access to essential services. Sex workers suffer the worst kind of human rights violations compared to most of us, and what exacerbates the situation, is that they have nowhere to run. When they report to law enforcement, there is push-back because they are engaged in an illegal activity to begin with, so they risk prosecution themselves”. And further stated that “The other challenge we face in South Africa is that our country is deeply conservative. A large percentage of the population subscribes to some form of religion. That has its own challenges in terms of addressing issues that are regarded as taboo in certain faiths, cultures, and traditions. Our sensitization efforts need to expand beyond law enforcement, government, and service providers – it needs to filter down to communities”.
One of the male sex workers Mr. Tlhompho Moyibedi from Centre of Positive Care, shared his story, “I started being a sex worker from 2014 but before joining this field of work I had been working in Pretoria at one of the car washes but only realized that I did not make enough money to support myself and my family then I got recruited by one of my friends to join sex work. Then I made a lot of money in the mines of Caltonville because of many men that work on the mines by being a sex worker there made life easier although I faced many challenges, I got to make enough money”.
Some of the discussions during the sex worker launch included aspects of the sex worker plan on the alignment to the structure of the current National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs (2017-2022), which will be to unite partners and communities across the country to act and transform the lives of sex workers. And the sex worker plan confirms the pledge for decriminalisation that sex workers live that are exposed to sexual and gender-based violence and perpetrated by their clients, police, and intimate partners as well as stigma and discrimination.