South Africa Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa participated in a speech on Friday tagged A “Historic” Moment for Sex Workers by the Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce.
During his speech, Ramaphosa condemned the kind of treatment meted out to sex workers, and expressed concern that while the Department of Health supplies these sex workers with condoms, it is not uncommon for the police to confiscate them without any regard to their human rights..
Speaking at the launch of the National Sex Work Sector Plan during Human Rights Month, Ramaphosa emphasised that sex workers could not be denied their humanity and their rights to dignity
We have one organ of the state providing a very necessary service and another organ of the state taking that very service away.
This referred to the brutality sex workers receive from the police while they discharge their duties.
This is not necessarily the fault of the police. This is the consequence of our inability to develop a coherent approach to the challenges facing sex workers.
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.
He made it clear that all those who do sex work reserve the right to be treated with dignity, and to say no.
According to Ramaphosa, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of California had conducted the first detailed study of HIV prevalence among female sex workers in South Africa.
We have heard today that the rate of HIV among sex workers is among the highest we have seen in any community in this country.
He said the plan by the National Sex Work Sector was to focus on protecting the right of all South Africans to life, to dignity, to health, irrespective of their occupation and regardless of their circumstances.
The plan also included an education programme that will recruit about 1 000 peer educators to provide support and assistance to about 70,000 sex workers over the next three years. This will be achieved through sensitisation.
The major aim of the plan is to sensitise healthcare providers, social workers and law enforcement officials on the right of sex workers to quality care, confidentiality and consent. He reiterated that they are humans and also citizens of the country and should be treated as such.
Consistent with our commitment to ensure all South Africans have access to legal representation, Sanac (the SA National Aids Council) has partnered with Legal Aid SA to provide legal and paralegal support through a call centre service to sex workers who are arrested.
We launch this plan knowing that our national effort to arrest new HIV infections will not succeed if sex workers are disempowered, marginalised and stigmatised.
In launching the plan, we call on all sex workers to recognise the enormous power they have to help our nation in making Aids a thing of the past.
Ramaphosa believes that the plan will boost the effect of the national effort to arrest new HIV infections if only those that engage in sex work will recognize the power they hold that can help eradicate AIDS from the history of South Africa.