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Decriminalising prostitution up for comment soon, says Ramaphosa

Crime & Courts
Parliament – A report from the South African Law Commission with legislative proposal around adult prostitution in South Africa was expected to be released for public comment soon, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.

Responding to questions from MPs in the National Assembly, Ramaphosa said various legislative proposals were contained in the report.

“The South African Law Commission was given a task to look at law reform in as far as the possible decriminalisation of sex work. Now the law commission has completed its work and the cabinet has it and decided the report should be released for public comment as part of a broader consultation process,” he said.

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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa File picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

“Once the comments have been received from the public, government will finalise its position…”

Ramaphosa, who chairs the South African National Aids Council, said much work has been done to ensure a standardised minimum package of services was offered to sex workers

But, he also conceded that government was not acting uniformly with its stance on prostitution, which remains illegal in South Africa until such time legislative reforms are effected.

“When it comes to decriminalisation, it’s quite bizarre because sex workers themselves say it’s quite contradictory because on the one hand government hands out condoms…and as soon as they have them and these are tools of their trade, the police are waiting for them around the corner. They arrest them and confiscate the tools of their trade….”

The deputy president said there were various options on the table, including the criminalisation of buying sex, rather than arresting those selling sex.

“The jury is till out on whether criminal buying rather than selling is more effective or works better,” said Ramaphosa.

“Let us debate this matter…and see how best we come out as South Africans and in the end it’s going to be a South African solution to a global challenge and problem.”

Sex workers have bemoaned the slow progress of the work on legalising their economic activity. The work on adult prostitution started in 1997, almost 20 years ago.

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