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  • Writer's pictureThe BSWC

Decrim Workshop

Overview of the Bill & Best practices

- Consensus that we are happy with the Bill

- Best practices (already incorporated into the guideline for submissions – see attached)

- Since petitions/ endorsements of a submission only counted as one – endorsement purely an advocacy tool and should not be in place of a submission

- Importance of lobbing MPs in advance

  • MPs to focus on attached (Justice, Women, Social Development, Police & MPWC) – see contact list attached

  • Lobbying is a collaborative effort – some have already established relationships with members

- Suggestion for moratorium on sex worker arrests/policing – needs bigger legal input.

Sex work, migration, and trafficking

Raise key issues that come up in discussing sex work in relation to migration and trafficking

  • What is useful to focus on, and what isn’t

Key myths that may come up with the decrim bill – disinformation that is generated:

  1. Decriminalisation gives people fear, moral panic, which will lead to people thinking that it will increase human trafficking, especially women and children

  2. Decriminalisation leads to increased rates of child ‘prostitution’

    • Migration, trafficking, sex work – look at where we focus our energies. What is the relevant data and research we can use to deal with some of the claims against decriminalisation.

      • Giving rational evidence, but simply explained

      • There is no evidence that both myths are true

Migration is a topic that is left out a lot when talking about sex work and trafficking, but it is an important issue to raise

  • In South Africa there are no numbers about irregular or illegal migration, which are often focused on. No claims can be made about that

  • Migration is seen as a threatening thing, but migration is not intertwined with trafficking and sex work

  • Only 7% of South Africa is made up of non-national migrants (also hard to get into the country with no documentation)

  • Also internal migration is much more frequent than cross border migration

Does decriminalisation also cover migrant sex workers? Yes (JJ addressed this at consultations – if you have the relevant apaer work – allowed to work in SA)

South African legislation has clear definitions on for example human trafficking, which can be used to show that not all sex workers are trafficked.

What we know and don’t know:

Little clarity on the nature and scope of trafficking

  • Made harder by the lack of clear data  we need better research to set new facts

  • Claims are wrong because data is unclear and not evidence-based, and feeds into the links between migration and crime

  • How to get the clear facts out there to replace the anecdotal data?

Anti-trafficking initiatives lead to human rights violations against sex workers and other vulnerable groups

No clear evidence that decriminalisation will lead to increase in trafficking

Decrim actually leads to stronger and better relationships between police and sex workers, in which sex workers are further enable to become anti-trafficking allies/working with them

  • This is how we get anti-trafficking organisation involved

Key point that needs to be drawn out in any engagement where it is suggested that decriminalisation will lead to increase in trafficking:

  1. Sex work is not trafficking

  2. Not all trafficking is about sexual exploitation (Labour trafficking is more common for example)

  3. Not all women who migrate, cross borders and sell sex are trafficked

But how much energy do we use fighting with the anti-trafficking sector?

  • What are the benefits to engage?

  • Identify and focus on potential overlap between concerns of the sex work sector and the anti-trafficking sector?

  • Finding a balance in investing time, when there are other topics which are just as important (like gender-based violence or sexual exploitation of children)


  1. What does the decrim bill mean for cross border migrants?

  2. What does it mean for asylum seekers and for refugees?

  3. What does it mean for cross border (without documentation) migrants?

Important questions to think through, but when to raise it?

Action points:

  1. Most up to date research on trafficking/migration to be sent by researchers (Becky, Ntokozo, Ntokozo, Marlise) – open to members of Asijiki knowledgeable on this and with access to resources

  2. Create posts for social media

  3. 1 comprehensive op-ed before submission deadline – collaborative effort

  • Group agreed responding to misinformation decided on case-by-case basis

  • Need for better and more up-to-date sources.

Media Overview / Strategy

Huge sex worker population that we don’t have face-to-face contact with like online sex workers - how do we get a diversified sex worker population to make submissions?

  • Strategy  Twitter space / Instagram live in prep for the workshops (Megan & Yonela) – week of the 16th

  • Workshops (provinces) – Eugene & Connie – start 3rd week in Jan

Op-eds and/or misinformed pieces on internet needs a reply - designated group of people that will write (voluntary).


Collaborative effort – please add name and/or topic and submission date

Can be pitched to media houses or simply posted on our websites


Writer (s)

Publishing Date



20 January 2022

Trafficking / Migration


Religion / Culture


Connie & Megan have a meeting with Bhekisisa on Monday so this might cover it, but please feel free to put your name down if you want

Publications to approach

  1. Bhekisisa – done. Meeting set for Monday, 16 January 2022

  2. Al Jazeera – done. Waiting for feedback

  3. Daily Maverick – did a piece 9 December when the Bill came out and then subsequently featured 2 pieces originally done by GroundUp. Pitch one of the topics listed above

  4. Africa Check (human trafficking). Submitted request – waiting for feedback.

  5. Mail and Guardian – response opinion piece (Becky & Maria volunteered). Not yet reached out to M&G.

Messaging organisations/individuals/members of the coalition can use for social media posts, op-eds or for submissions

KEY ARGUMENTS FOR DECRIMINALISATION, IN BRIEF* (working document – feel free to edit/add/discuss)


Decriminalisation is what sex workers want

Where decriminalisation has happened – New South Wales, New Zealand – sex workers report that it delivers better health and safety protection, and a cooperative relationship with the Police

Sex workers are the most vulnerable people in the sex industry, so surely their view is the most important one?


Decriminalisation normalises relationships between sex workers and other state agencies

With sex workers no longer labelled as criminals, they can work much better with the police to tackle violence against sex workers, trafficking and other crimes against sex workers, or witnessed by sex workers.


Decriminalisation doesn’t increase the number of sex workers

Although opponents in NSW and New Zealand claimed that would happen, it hasn’t been the case.


Decriminalisation does not hinder exit from the industry

Decriminalisation removes the risk of sex workers getting criminal records, and strengthens them to challenge poor treatment, including attempts to trap them in the sex industry.


Decriminalisation is the moral pathway to take

The case for decriminalisation is a moral one – it protects the vulnerable, it promotes openness and honesty, and it is not opposed to Christian or other religious teaching.


Decriminalisation makes it easier to act against pandemics – e.g. HIV, COVID

Getting messages and medication to people who need them is key in a health crisis. Illegal industries, especially those where infection can spread, are high risk. Decriminalisation reduces the risk.


Decriminalisation reduces the risk of discrimination against sex workers

When people aren’t labelled as criminals for the work they do, the risk of discrimination against them goes down. They can complain to state agencies about discrimination, they can talk publically about their work and issues, and their advocacy organisations can operate openly, without fear.


Decriminalisation empowers sex workers in the workplace

Decriminalisation means that sex workers can openly organise, can claim the same rights and protections as other workers, and can form alliances with similar sectors – such as small traders.


Decriminalisation shifts the focus onto what is genuinely harmful activity

What remains illegal under decriminalisation is activity which is harmful and is dealt with by other laws – such as violence, threatening behaviour, poor employment practices. Being a client, being a sex worker, advertising your sexual services in a reasonable way aren’t activities which should be against the law.


Decriminalisation removes the risk of law-breaking in the interaction between sex worker and adult client

Decriminalisation removes the illegality of sexual contact between a sex worker and a client. So long as both are over the age of consent, both are consenting to the contact and their contact isn’t in a place which could reasonably cause offence to someone else, they don’t need to worry about what the law says.

In all other legal models for sex work, lawbreaking will still be a risk in such a situation.


Decriminalisation is supported by all South Africa’s major political parties

The ANC (2019 Conference) and the EKK (2020 Manifesto, being clarified) specifically have policy positions supporting decriminalisation. The DA have a strong position supporting protection of sex workers – and sex workers say decriminalisation offers the best protection for them.

There are an estimated xxx sex workers in South Africa; they form a large and politicised voting bloc.


Decriminalisation isn’t a New Zealand, Australian or Western model – it is what sex workers worldwide are calling for

*Needs expert text


Decriminalisation protects under-age sex workers

*Needs expert text


Decriminalisation is the most effective arrangement to stop and expose trafficking

*Needs expert text


Decriminalisation is the approach which empowers women the most (Feminism)


Decriminalisation is fairer and more workable than partial criminalisation

Comments public:

  • Snowball strategy  start with encouraging people to do a submission (giving little toolkit on how to do it and why) to support decrim. And topic will spread out to others.

  • Submission writing workshops

  • Inclusion of rural communities in workshops


Asijiki members and allies are supporting decrim bill.

  • Training sex workers how to do submissions – led by provincial coordinators (SWEAT, Asijiki, Sisonke, M4F) in provinces

Action points

  1. Send submission guideline to all members (Constance)

  • Copy of submission to be sent to

  • Once submission has been submitted (whether organisation, individual or both), please sign petition (attached) for advocacy/media purposes*

  1. Training of SW submissions to start 3rd week of January (Eugene) – supported by Constance, provincial coordinators, M4F coordinators, Sisonke coordinators

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