Cops, gays, sex workers build bridges of trust in Cape Town
The lack of trust between sex workers, the gay community and the police came under the spotlight at an inter-sectoral imbizo to promote non-discriminative service delivery at police stations.
Speaking at the event, 35-year-old sex worker Duduzile Dlamini, of Barcelona informal settlement, said eight years of this work had taught her not to trust the police.
“Not all police are bad, but I’ve been abused several times at the hands of some police. As sex workers, they (the police) harass us, take our money and condoms and ask for sexual favours,” said Dlamini.
The mother of four told the Cape Argus that she had been gang-raped by seven men in 2009, but had not reported the matter to the police because she was scared the police would arrest her for prostitution.
“We are even afraid to tell them if we see a minor on the streets who could be a victim of human trafficking,” she said
The imbizo was held at Gugulethu Comprehensive Senior Secondary High School and attended by top police management and gender activist groups, including the Deputy Minister of Police Makhotso Maggie Sotyu, deputy provincial commissioner Major-General Sharon Jephta, advocate Hishaam Mohamed, the regional head of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, gay and lesbian group Free Gender and sex workers’ education and advocacy group Sweat.
Sotyu was reporting back on programmes she implemented in 2011 and last year to ensure that victims of crime and sexual abuse were treated fairly at police stations when reporting crimes, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender.
With the help of the Women’s Legal Centre the police have trained 64 police officers over the past months in standard operating procedures when dealing with sex workers and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community.
The legal centre’s Stacey-Leigh Manoek said their research showed that 41 percent of policemen said sex workers were immoral, while 50 percent thought arresting them was important in their work.
An emotional Boniwe Tyatyeka told of how her 21-year-old lesbian daughter, Nonstikelelo Tyatyeka, had been found decomposing in a wheelie bin at Mau-Mau in Nyanga, a year after her disappearance from home.
Nonstikelelo was found at her 29-year-old neighbour’s home. Tyatyeka told of how the police didn’t take her seriously when she reported her daughter’s disappearance because her daughter was not a minor, even when she insisted that her daughter must be in trouble.
Funeka Soldaat, founder of Free Gender, said in recent months, thanks to Sotyu’s efforts, they had been re-registering cases of Khayelitsha lesbians who had been too scared to go to the police station.
“The police station in Khayelitsha is no longer a scary place for lesbians. The police are welcoming now and we are working together to catch some of the culprits,” she said.