45% of sex worker deaths linked to murder, says report

File picture: Pexels

File picture: Pexels

Published Mar 5, 2020


Cape Town – A report by the Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Taskforce and Sisonke Sex Worker Movement has found that there were 101 deaths of female and transwomxn sex workers between 2018/2019 and 45% were probably attributable to murder.

The organisation said the report, titled #SayHerName Female and Transwomxn Sex Worker Deaths in

South Africa, point to the high levels - and particularly brutal forms - of violence levelled against women and transwomxn sex workers in South Africa.

The first #SayHerName report into the deaths of female sex workers in South Africa was conducted between 2014 to 2017.

The latest version not only collated information on deaths, but also how sex worker deaths had been portrayed in the media during the period under review.

“The extraordinarily high levels of direct violence experienced by sex workers increase their risk of ill health and sexually transmitted infections. 

"In addition, the structural violence that is embedded in their working and living conditions exposes them to disease, exploitation, and abuse; it inhibits their ability to protect themselves,” the report said.

The organisation said it wanted to provide insight into the final moments in some of the lives of women and transwomxn sex workers in South Africa.

“An overwhelming sense is that the deaths of many sex workers are characterised by violence, aggression, and ill-will.

“Many of the women and transwomxn whose lives and deaths are recorded here passed away when they were in the prime of their lives and while they were playing pivotal roles in their families and close communities.

“They were mothers, girlfriends, grandmothers, friends, sisters and confidantes.

“We are aware that the deaths recorded here are only a small sample of the many.

“(There) are many sex workers who die annually in South Africa, and across the world.

“We celebrate their lives, their courage, and their vibrancy -

while demanding justice for their deaths.”

Organisations like SWEAT, Sisonke and the Triangle Project continue to call for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa.

Media Advocacy officer Megan Lessing said: “Looking at countries where it is not criminalised we know

it would make a difference in the deaths.

“In most cases, because their work is criminalised, sex workers have

to make decisions that put hem

at risk.

“Until it happens, we will continue to advocate for it.

“The previous report was three years ago and at that point, it was 55%. Now it is 101 deaths, or 45%.

“This is still a huge figure from a key population.”

Department of Justice and Correctional Services spokesperson Crispin Phiri said: “The department is

developing legislation related to sex work.

“A draft bill will be published for public comment in the latter half of this year. Sex work is work.”

Cape Times

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