Decriminalising sex work in South Africa

THE WITS Bioethics Society hosted a debate on “sex-buyer law” by the Wits Debating Union on Wednesday evening at Wits Education Campus.

 “Sex-buyer law is a law that criminalises the person who purchases the sex and not the sex worker. It is being implemented in Sweden, Norway and some areas in the United Kingdom,” said Rubina Valodia, chairperson of the Bioethics Society.

Valodia said the society wants to stimulate dialogue about sex work in South Africa.

Sex work organisations want to decriminalise sex work in South Africa                                   Photo: Karen Mwendera

Organisations such as the Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) and the Sex Workers Union are advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa, Valodia said. Sex work is illegal in South Africa.

Javu Baloyi, spokesperson for the Commission for Gender Equity (CGE), said, “The South African law says that sex work is not legal and cannot be practised.” The CGE is planning to challenge this law.

The Wits Debating Union argued for and against the decriminalisation of sex work and the sex-buyer law. Naomi Lubinksy, of the debating union said, “There is nothing criminal about selling your body.”


Ntokozo Yingwana, a researcher from the African Centre for Migration and Society, said that “in implementing decriminalisation of sex work and the sex-buyer law, only a consenting adult will be allowed to be a sex worker. A sex worker is seen as another woman at work and therefore brothels will have to register as businesses and a sex worker will be seen as a worker and will therefore have to register with the labour department.”



Wits Vuvuzela, Wits Athletes vs sex workers, May 10, 2013

Wits Vuvuzela, Sex work activists heat up anthropology discussion, April 14, 2011