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The Swedish model, legalisation, decriminalisation — does the sex work debate leave you confused? Look no further.
In 1999, the South African Law Reform Commission began evaluating possible alternatives to the country’s criminalisation of the voluntary sale of and purchase of sex, including decriminalisation.
More than a decade later, the commission’s final May 2017 report recommended the continued criminalisation of sex work coupled with diversion programmes, or projects that help people leave sex work if they chose.
“So rather than sex workers getting criminal records, the report recommends that they be put on diversion programmes and trained to look at alternative skills to hopefully encourage them not to be involved in sex work,” Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jefferies told Bhekisisa in July 2016, ahead of the report’s release.
The commission favoured partial criminalisation as its second choice.
Speaking at the time, Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) advocacy manager, Ishtar Lakhani said the decision to back the continued criminalisation of sex work threatened some of the world’s most progressive efforts at HIV prevention taking root in South Africa.
“It’s astounding that the law commission can recommend this. There are a number of human rights organisations, networks and even the South African National Aids Council that have made the case for decriminalisation based on evidence that it is the best method to decrease HIV infections,” Lakhani argued.
Confused? Lakhani explains how the world legislates the buying and selling of sex. -- Text by Laura Lopez Gonzalez
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