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Decriminalization of prostitution in S.Africa- a passionate debate

The suggested decriminalization of prostitution in South Africa invariably invokes passionate debate in the run-up to the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.[media:factfile]

The police force’s relationship with the sex work industry can in some cases be turbulent; with abusive situations arising due to the fact that sex work is illegal in this country.

Some argue that making the sex industry illegal opens the door for police corruption and mistreatment, and increases the vulnerability of sex workers (particularly street-based workers). Sex workers find that they are not able to approach the police for assistance in cases of abuse during the course of their work.

Decriminalization may lessen the amount of abuse the girls are exposed to, both in terms of police interventions and exploitative working conditions.

"Rescuing" or "removing" women from their role as a sex worker may not in fact be what they need. Rather, recourse to the law may be more helpful to them.

Furthermore, legalisation of the industry may strengthen the bargaining power of sex workers when negotiating contracts with brothel owners and their negotiating power with clients.

Below is a photo essay on Natasha, a street-based sex worker by Nikki Rixon/Twenty Ten:

Natasha has been working in the industry in Cape Town for 4 years now. She has had to make some hard decisions in her life due to her life circumstances.

Originally from Johannesburg, she lost her mother at a young age and never knew her father. During her career she has experienced verbal abuse and harassment from the police force on many occasions. Her belief is that decriminalization of prostitution will ensure the protection of sex workers in terms of verbal abuse/physical violence and allowing them access to health care.