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South Africa to legalize sex work

Sex workers and activists marked International Sex Workers' Rights Day by marching to the Western Cape Premier's office in Cape Town. The marchers were dressed in colourful masks to hide their faces, while others wore bright red clothing to symbolise their support for the decriminalisation of prostitution. Photo: Sapa

South Africa on Friday said it would decriminalize sex work, hoping to tackle high levels of crime against women in a country with one of the world’s highest HIV caseloads.

The sale and purchase of sexual services will no longer be treated as a crime under proposed legislation put forward by the justice ministry.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill was approved by cabinet late last month.

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It seeks to decriminalise the sale and purchase of adult sexual services, the ministry said. It was published on Friday for public comment and will then have to be passed by parliament.

“It is hoped that decriminalisation will minimise human rights violations against sex workers,” Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said.

He added: “It would also mean better access to health care and reproductive health services for sex workers.”

The AFP news agency quotes sex worker rights’ group SWEAT as saying: “With sex workers no longer labelled as criminals, they can work much better with the police to tackle violence”.

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SWEAT welcomed the bill as “incredible news”.

Laws prohibiting children from selling sex and trafficking for sexual purposes will remain in force.

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