JOHANNESBURG – Activists are again calling for the decriminalisation of sex work, following the murders of six women believed to be sex workers.
At the weekend, Joburg police made a grizzly discovery when they found six women’s bodies at a panel-beating shop in the city centre.
A 21-year-old suspect has since been arrested and is set to appear in court on Tuesday.
It’s suspected that the bodies may be those of sex workers who have disappeared from the area recently.
Constance Mathe is the coordinator of the Asijiki Coalition for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa and a sex worker herself.
She paints a dire picture of the situation sex workers find themselves in at the moment, saying that they can’t turn to the police in their time of need because of the way they’re treated.
“Police are supposed to be protecting sex workers, but they use and take advantage of their uniforms and their power as police officers – they will ask you for bribery, they will ask you for sexual services. You can’t run to them.”
She said that this was why they were calling for the decriminalisation of sex work.
“We are asking for the decriminalisation of sex work to advance their human rights and also reduce gender-based violence. This is what we are asking for and respect and to see sex work as an occupation and be registered under the labour laws and maybe these women wouldn’t have lost their lives.”