Prostitution In South Africa: 10 Reasons South Africans Believe It Should Be Legalized

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There’s been a lot of agitations for some “victimless crimes” such as Prostitution and drug dealings to be decriminalised.

Having the strong backing of the likes of the Free Market Foundation (FMF), agitators continue to mount pressure on the nation’s judiciary to consider the amendment of laws pertaining to the sex trade and other victimless crimes.

Describing “victimless crimes” as those acts criminalised by the government despite there being no complainant. It is different from victimisation crimes, where an individual’s rights are criminally violated.

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The FMF says some traffic offences, drugs dealing and contravening exchange regulations should be abolished in order to allow the nation’s  law enforcement agencies to focus on situations where people’s rights and property are criminally violated.

“Police resources are under pressure. One way to alleviate this is to stop wasting time and resources pursuing value-subjective crimes where no individual rights have been violated and allow the police to focus on real crimes against persons and property,” the FMF said

The agitations for these crimes to be abolished has been up and contentious with citizens either supporting the move or against it.

South Africa’s Sexual Offences Act, 1957 (Act No. 23 of 1957, originally the Immorality Act, 1957) and related by-laws criminalise all aspects of the sex trade, brothel-keeping and procuring, and other activities related to prostitution.

Section 20 of the Sexual Offence Act prohibits having sex for reward (i.e. prostitution) and living on the earnings of prostitution. The prohibition of prostitution was introduced in 1988 but before that time, the actual act of prostitution was not a crime.

The penalty was originally imprisonment for up to three years with or without a fine of up to R600; in 1988 the fine was raised to R6 000. Until the 1985 amendment, the

Until the 1985 amendment, the Act also prescribed a more severe penalty of up to seven years imprisonment with or without a fine of up to R1 000 if interracial sex was involved.

The same Section 20 also prohibits committing an “indecent act” in public, or assisting in or receiving a reward for the commission of an indecent act between two people. The penalty was originally a fine of up to R400 or imprisonment for up to two years or both; in 1988 the fine was increased to R4 000.



For years now, the South African Law Reform Commission’s (SALRC) recognised prostitution in South Africa as “a very complex intersection of social and economic factors in which poverty, unemployment and inequality were key drivers” but the organisation has failed to recommend a legislative approach in the issues was  supported by “sex trade” survivors and women’s rights groups around the world.

However, South Africans have intensified calls for the legalisations of Prostitutions for these following reasons:

Reasons South Africans Believe Prostitution Should Be Legalised

  • It will free up law enforcement agencies to focus on situations where people’s rights and property are criminally violated.
  • Pursuing victimless crimes waste police time and prevent them from fighting real criminals.
  • Abolishing the law against sex work will help end corruptions that come with the police taking bribes from culprits.
  • Legal Prostitution Would reduces rape, sexual violence, and other sex crimes. Once legalised, sex workers would be empowered to approach a police if they are in danger or having a problem with their clients and pimps and sex workers would also be given an opportunity to conduct their business on their own without the control of abusive clients.
  • Legalisation Could Benefit A Government Through Taxes. When prostitution is properly regulated, people who patronise the industry will feel safer and thus, the demand for it will increase, which can also be an added benefit to the economy.
  • It would protect minors like children who now become victims of sexual abuses. The argument is that when a man cannot find an adult sex worker, he would definitely turn to pimps, who mostly use underage sex workers, to satisfy his sexual urges.
  • It could help us fight against human-Trafficking that is now becoming rampant across the country. If legal, women and children victims will become more willing to come forward and report traffickers, abusive clients, and greedy pimps to the law officials.
  • It could cave the country a lot of money.When legalised and properly implemented,  the government will no longer have to spend cost for hiring additional law officials to hunt down sex workers, enforcing laws against prostitution, and caring for sex workers in jail.
  •  It will reduce the rate of unemployment. If legalised, sex workers will be able to get access to the rights and services that they deserve. These include minimum rights and entitlements given by law, such as safety rights, minimum wage, health benefits, vacation pay, and protection against unlawful discrimination
  • It gives everyone rights to their body. Every human being has the right to use their body according to their will. Hence, if a sex worker would want to sell out her body in exchange for money, it’s her choice.

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It could be recalled that in 2001, two Pretoria High Court Judges ruled that prostitution was legal, but that keeping a brothel was still against the law.

Judges TT Spoelstra and G Webster upheld an appeal by self-confessed prostitute Christine Jacobs against her conviction on a charge that she had unlawful carnal intercourse with a man for reward.

Judge Spoelstra pointed out in his ruling that prostitution was not a common-law offence. Section 20 (1)(a) of the Sexual Offences Act stipulated that sexual intercourse between two persons of the opposite sex who were not married was an offence only if it was practised “for reward” by the female partner.

“One is also at a loss to understand why only the recipient of the money is guilty of a crime whilst the party paying for the services is not. There is no moral or legal justification for these distinctions. It is obviously unjustified discrimination between not only sexes but also persons.” he said, referring to a Constitutional Court ruling, which declared the common law offence of sodomy to be inconsistent with the Constitution and therefore invalid.

Well, the FMF also believe abolishing other unnecessary crimes like traffic laws and drug dealing will be to the benefit of the country’s police and other law enforcement agencies.

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It believed that some traffic regulations were often arbitrary and sometimes unknown to motorists. And, seeking help for drug abuse and prostitution led to innocent citizens being deemed criminals.

Incentives that lead to corruption, such as discretionary powers by officials, must be stopped by introducing strict criteria in the exercise of that power, the FMF said, citing rampant abuse of discretionary powers in the granting or withholding of contracts, licences, protection, subsidies and other privileges as the causes of real or suspected corruption.

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