Cape Town - Sex work does not remove a person from their culture or heritage, says Sisonke Sex Work Movement national organiser Duduzile Dlamini.
The group led a Heritage Day discussion in Blikkiesdorp about sex work, safety and human rights.
About 20 activists, sex workers and community members met to talk about the plight of male, female and transgender sex workers in the community.
Dlamini, who identified herself as sex worker, said the group wanted to show residents that” sex workers are human and have a shared heritage”.
“Sex work does does not separate you from our culture. It does not break with anything. It does not remove anything from me.
“I am still a woman, a mother and a sister. I am still a breadwinner. I can do whatever other women can do.”
Dlamini said she and other sex workers should not be treated as if they did not exist.
“We are not ghosts.”
The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat), Women’s Legal Centre and Tuberculosis/HIV Care Association were also represented at the discussion.
Elma Geswindt, a paralegal from the Women’s Legal Centre, said sex workers had a right to celebrate their heritage.
“We can celebrate their lives as well. They do not get much recognition for what they do out there.”
Geswindt said sex workers were vulnerable targets in Blikkiesdorp, Cape Town and across the country.
“When sex workers come back from work in the early hours people wait for them at the entrance to Blikkiesdorp and rob them of the money they’ve just made.”
Geswindt said the Women’s Legal Centre often supported sex workers when they fell victim to gender violence, harassment, and robbers.
“We must talk about how we can get the community involved to help protect them.”
Sweat spokeswoman Lesego Tlhwale said the aim was also to get the community talking about sex workers and HIV in the community.
“The only way to ultimately help sex workers is to legalise it. This will ensure the rights and dignity they deserve.”
Sweat wants the government to legalise prostitution by 2016.
Condoms, lubricant and educational material were handed out at the discussion.