Johannesburg - Sex workers in Joburg are tired of constantly being harassed by police officers while plying their trade.
On Thursday, they used the International Sex Workers’ Day celebrations to protest against police brutality and unlawful arrests.
At least 80 sex workers gathered at the Workers’ Library in the CBD and marched to the Johannesburg Central police station to express their anger at the police.
The march was organised by the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) and Sisonke, a movement for sex workers.
The workers wore orange T-shirts that read “Decriminalise sex work now”.
They had their faces covered with masks to protect their identities. They waved placards that read “We need respect because we are all human!” and “Stop sex workers abuse”.
In their memorandum, they stated: “Your police rape us and we cannot report cases to anyone because sex work is a criminal offence. When we do try to report this, they deny us that right. Our rights are human rights, as embedded in the South African constitution. Criminalisation leaves us vulnerable and at risk, with no access to security or justice. We call on you to address this as a matter of urgency.”
It further stated: “Your police use municipal by-laws to detain us, and then they deny us access to our medication. Your police demand money in exchange for not arresting us.”
The memorandum was received by Colonel Chester Spiers on behalf of the police station. He said he would make sure the memorandum reached the relevant people.
Among the protesters was Pal*, a 36-year-old mother-of- three. Pal says she isn’t ashamed of her job as a sex worker as it pays for her children’s schooling.
She has been in the sex industry for 23 years. She came to South Africa from Zimbabwe when she was just 13 years old.
She is among sex workers who claim she has experienced police brutality, with the men in blue also robbing her of her income.