Sex Work In South Africa

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Currently in South Africa all sex work is considered a criminal act, as mandated under section 20 (1A)(a) of the Sexual Offences Act. The Sexual Offences Act specifically criminalizes “persons living on earnings of prostitutions or committing or assisting in the commission of indecent acts” (Lecture slide). In other words, it works to criminalize any person suspected of engaging in “sex-for-reward.” Such a definition of sex-for-reward is problematic because there is no real guideline as to where the distinction ought to be drawn between legitimate sex-for-reward (what some may define as inter-marital sex) and illegitimate sex-for-reward (what the law describes to be prostitution). The complicated nature of such discourse is important to consider…show more content…
Total criminalization means the consideration of all aspects of sex work as criminal offenses. South Africa’s current laws regarding sex work can serve as an example of this type of legislation (Lecture slide). Partial criminalization means to criminalize certain aspects of sex work. One example would be an attempt by legislators to just make the buying of sex illegal. The legalization of sex work allows for adult prostitution within certain narrowly regulated conditions (lecture slide). For example, such regulations may include the restriction of sex work to “red light zones” and the requirement of all sex workers to carry identification cards. While the legalization of sex work may seem desirable at first glance, if looked at more closely, it is often discovered that some of the most vulnerable (such as poor minorities) are inevitably left out of the system. For this reason, many push for legislation that allows for the decriminalization of sex work. The decriminalization of sex work means the complete removal of the laws that had criminalized it in the first place (Lecture slide). It also involves the protection of sex worker rights and allows for sex workers to regulate the industry rather than the government. Sex workers who had previously held a criminal record for prostitution would also be granted amnesty. In the South African context, conversations about the decriminalization of sex work were seen under the Apartheid regime and further accelerated in the post-Apartheid
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