SA sex worker activist speaks out at international conference
DURBAN - A former prostitute and women's rights activist, whose organisation has been present at the Siam Lee murder trial in Durban, has questioned the ANC's plan to decriminalise sex work at a major conference in Germany.
Mickey Meji, leader of prostitution survivor movement Kwanele, along with South Africa’s former deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, is attending a congress against sexual exploitation in Mainz, Germany, at which Meji spoke on Wednesday. The pair were part of a group of women who marched through the city on Tuesday.
Meji said that despite South Africa’s relative wealth as a medium income country, many black South African women and girls are marginalized by a patriarchal, capitalist system. “Prostitution is neither sex, nor work, nor is it a free choice,” she said.
“In the many years that I was prostituted on the streets of my beautiful Cape Town, I have never come across a single woman who dreamed of this exploitative career or of becoming the best paid prostitute. Instead, all I heard from fellow prostitutes was that they did this as a means of survival for themselves and their families.
“They endured the pain of unwanted sex with strangers to earn a living for themselves and their families. They maintained that what they wanted was dignified, decent, proper employment. Although prostitution may be seen to provide financial benefit, it has not lifted any woman out of poverty. Instead, prostituted women come out of the system poorer and scarred physically, internally and psychologically.
“Prostitution is chosen for us as a result of our colonial past, persistent inequalities, apartheid, poverty, past sexual and physical abuse. Our patriarchal society continues to perpetuate the system of prostitution and the system has always rendered poor black women vulnerable to exploitation mostly by white privileged men.”
Madlala-Routledge tweeted on Tuesday: “Dear President, what do you mean 'decriminalize sex work'? Does this include sex buyers, pimps and brothel keepers? Is this ANC policy that women and girls are to be bought and sold? Is prostitution decent work? Is it work?”.The Independent on Saturday