SPEAKING OUT: The Cape Town Methodist Mission church hung a banner outside of their exterior wall calling for the decriminalisation of sex work. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - In bold letters a banner splayed on the Central Methodist Mission (CMM) church state “Jesus was the first to decriminalise sex work. 

John 8:7” was pinned on the church steeple. The banner received a mixed reaction from activists and members of the church who previously lobbied against the decriminalisation of sex work, which was discussed in Parliament on Monday.

Cosatu and Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force (Sweat) presented proposals on the need to decriminalise sex work to Parliament on Monday.

Civil rights organisations have told Parliament that the SA National Aids Council (Sanac) discriminated against sex workers in its 2017/2022 plan to provide health care to the marginalised group. The organisations were making presentations on the SA Legal Reform Commission (SALRC) report before Parliament’s multiparty caucus’s sex work summit. This follows a resolution by the ANC, at its elective conference, to decriminalise sex work.

Founder of Nalane Associates for Reproductive Justice Tlaleng Mofokeng slammed Sanac’s National Strategic Plan (NSP) which deals with HIV and tuberculosis TB for 2017 to 2022. She claimed that the decriminalisation of sex work appeared in Sanac’s HIV policy document, but was excluded from its National Strategic Plan.

Reverend Alan Storey of CMM said it’s crucial for the church to join the call for decriminalisation of sex work as the scriptures are clear that the church is supposed to safeguard the lives of the most vulnerable people in society.

“The basis of our protection and care for the well-being of sex workers is rooted in the theological fact that all human beings are engraved with the indelible image of God and therefore are to be treasured as the priceless gifts they are.

“In other words, our care for another has nothing to do with how they live and everything to do with the mere fact they are alive. Sex workers are some of the most vulnerable people in our society who are consistently treated as outcasts,” said Storey.

Constance Mathe who works for the Asijiki coalition for the decriminalisation of sex workers said the organisation is glad the church has joined the movement as SA should revert from passing judgement. Mathe said many sex workers are Christian and attend church and advised other churches to follow CMM’s example.

However, SA Council of Churches (SACC’s) general secretary Malusi Mpumlwana said the verse quoted by CMM can be interpreted in many ways and does not imply that Jesus condoned sex work.

“That text doesn’t say the person is a prostitute, it says the woman committed adultery and Jesus told her to go and sin no more. He was not condoning it, so you can’t say its justification for sexual workers.

“No church would endorse or support the decriminalisation of sex work as it demeans the dignity of women. We’re concerned about the conditions of life that make people take on that type of employment,” said Mpumlwana.

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