Essay Example: Sex Workers in South Africa

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Middlebury College
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Sex workers are one of the marginalized groups in present-day South Africa. The groups are exposed to harassment sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. There is little protection offered to sex workers since sex work is not legal under the Constitution. As a result of this, most of them are stigmatized, and since the sex work is prohibited, most of the are assaulted by clients. Also, most of them are forced to work under dangerous environment to escape the scrutiny of the public hence they frequently fall victims of crime. In spite of punishment that is imposed on sex workers when brought under the law, sex work is still rampant and outlawing it has proved unsuccessful since it has led to violence and led to spread of illness especially HIV and aids (Deering et al. 2014).

Violation of sex worker of rights in South Africa

Sex worker especially those that work on a street are substantially higher risk of violence and murder than any other person. They encounter elevated levels of harassment that are carried out by police and their perceived clients. According to studies done by human rights, half of all sex worker has on one way or the other experienced violence while on their job (Gould & Fick, 2008). One study finds out that 24 percent of street workers sex workers had been raped by policemen. Most of them find it difficult to report such abuse to concerned authorities since sex work is criminalized (Gould & Fick,2008). All this violation is the contravention of section 12 of the constitution that stipulates that everybody has a right to freedom and security. If the sex worker is criminalized, I think the law stipulates the punishment, but it seems individuals that have been mandated to bring sex worker into the book have taken advantage of this. The most shocking thing is that even when sex workers report to the relevant authority, no action is adopted by the police that they report to are the same people that are raping and assaulting them on a daily basis. In fact, a lot of police believe that raping a sex worker is not possible and they are frequently not willing to open a case even when the sex worker complaints (Womens Legal Centre,2012).

Furthermore, sex workers face discrimination while seeking health services and this is the reason why most they detect that they are infected when it is too late. Due to discrimination, they are not able to access screening and treatment of HIV and other illness. This is the violation of human rights since everyone has a right to access health care services something that is clear under the Constitution specifically section 27 (Manoek, 2012).

How to minimize risks associated with sex work

Most of the individuals that join sex worker are driven by poverty since they want to earn a living. Therefore, the government should focus on creating more job opportunity to reduce desperation that drives most of the people to join sex work. Also, I think some of this risk can be reduced if sex work decriminalized (World Health Organization,2005). If this sector is decriminalized, there will be regulation just like any other and sex workers will feel free to visit health centres without fear of harassment and this will help in the treatment of HIV if detected early. Also, violation of sex worker rights will drastically reduce since sex workers will have access to vital police services and police will stop harassing and raping them which also a recipe for spreading HIV.



Deering, K. Amin, A., Shoveller, J., Nesbitt, A., Garcia-Moreno, C., Duff, P., Argento, E., & Shannon, K. (2014) A Systematic Review of the Correlates of Violence Against Sex Workers. American Journal of Public Health: Vol. 104, No. 5, pp. e42-e54. (May)

Gould, C & Fick, N. (2008) Selling sex in Cape Town: Sex work and human trafficking in a South African city. Pretoria/Tshwane, Institute for Security Studies

Gould, C. & Fick, N. (2008). Selling sex in Cape Town: Sex work and human trafficking in a South African city. Pretoria/Tshwane, Institute for Security Studies.

Manoek, S. (2012). Stop Harassing Us! Tackle Real Crime!: A Report on Human Rights Violations by Police Against Sex Workers in South Africa, Womens Legal Centre. Available: version.pdf

Womens Legal Centre (2012) Stop Harassing Us! Tackle Real Crime! A report on Human Rights Violations by Police Against Sex Workers in South Africa, WLC, SWEAT, and Sisonke.

World Health Organization (2005). Violence against Sex Workers and HIV Prevention. Available:


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