Perceptions of masters students on decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa.
Mlamla, Ntsika Edward.
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Numerous studies (Arnott & Crago, 2008, Miller, 2009, Asijiki Fact Sheet, 2015) that have been conducted show that sex work is not only a South African or African phenomenon, but also that it is a matter of global concern (Miller, 2009; Kalwahali, 2009; Tepanon, 2006). Sex work remains a criminal offence in South Africa and is criminalised by the Sexual Offences Act No. 23 of 1957 and the Criminal Law: Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act No. 32 of 2007, Section (Sec) 20(1)(A). The consulted literature shows that sex workers have been the victims of violence perpetrated against them by police officers, purchasers of sexual services, community members, and public service providers. To this course, on the 11 March 2016, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “Whatever views individuals may hold about sex work, whatever the statutes may say about the legality of sex work, we cannot deny the humanity and inalienable rights of people who engage in sex work”. A number of organisations such as the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), the African National Congress Women’s League (ANC WL), and Sex Work Education Advocacy Taskforce (SWAET) are advocating for sex work to be decriminalised on the basis of the human rights violations perpetrated against sex workers. For this study, two Focus Group Discussions (FGD) and ten In-Depth Interviews (IDI) were conducted with 20 participants comprising 10 students from the Faculty Law and 10 students from Criminology and Forensic Studies Discipline in the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Howard College Campus, all enrolling Master’s Degree. The data were collected from August 2016 to mid-October 2016. The study aimed at exploring the perceptions of Master’s degree students on the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa. This study was prompted by the limited literature that exists to elicit the views of developing academics and other academics on sex work. These selected participants understood the issues regarding the legality and illegality of sex work, they were knowledgeable regarding the issues pertaining to the human rights of sex workers, and they acknowledged that they were conscious of the plight of sex workers because sex work occurs everywhere and is observably on the increase. This study investigated the genuine perceptions of these participants in an attempt to determine which legal model could best be used in South Africa to govern sex work industry. The Strain Theory and the Economic Theory were used in this study to explain the legal model that could be used in South Africa to govern sex work. Before discussing the complexities of sex work and the legal model that could be used, one needs to have an understanding of the reasons why women involve in sex work. In this context, the participants of this study disclosed their perceptions on the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa. In essence, these participants suggested that South Africa should legalise sex work and that a legal framework for controlling sex work should be employed. Even though this study focused on non-criminalisation of sex work, it did not disregard other legal models; hence, the participants viewed the legalisation of sex work as preferable to the decriminalisation of sex work. The participants of this study further outlined the reasons for engaging in sex work as economic issues relating to love for the job, drug use, lack of education, and attempts at poverty alleviation. For the recommendations, this study envisaged will assist in designing of a suitable legal model to control sex work in South Africa without infringing on people’s human rights and without negatively affecting those engaged in the very active sex work industry.