Around 200 s.e.x workers took to the streets of Johannesburg on Thursday to demand prost!tution be decriminalized.
“This is what I wear to work,” Dudu Dlamini, clad in hiking boots and a long dress, told AFP. “No high heels or short skirts.”
“It requires expertise and skills you have no idea about,” she added.
“I purchased my own house out of s.e.x work,” said Constance Mathe, who has been in the profession for 16 years.
A mother of two, Mathe used to be a domestic worker but only earned R1,000 per month.
An estimated 120,000 and 180,000 s.e.x workers operate in South Africa, according to aid organizations.
But the country’s prost!tution laws date back to the apartheid era and punish s.e.x workers and their clients.
“S.e.x work is work, not a crime,” Dlamini said at the protest.
Around her, the group advanced with signs held aloft reading “Where is the crime?” and “Decrim s.e.x work now”.
Some of the protesters marched with their faces covered, flanked by police cars.
“The police harass us and ask us for money. And s.e.x workers who are abused by their clients cannot just go to the police station and file a case, because they would be prosecuted for being s.e.x workers,” explains Yonela Sinqu of the S.e.x Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT).
According to the organization prost!tutes are often victims of violence and rape.
SWEAT says around 10 s.e.x workers are murdered each year, but that many cases go unreported.
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