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Prostitution in South Africa

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Prostitution in South Africa

Prostitution in South Africa has been illegal since the 1957 Sexual Offences Act (SOA), and the purchase of sex was added as an offence in a 2007 amendment. However, it remains common.

Legal and regulatory framework

Section 20(1)(aA) of the SOA states that any person who has unlawful carnal intercourse or commits an act of indecency with any other person for reward, is guilty of an offence.

The Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 also contains provisions relating to prostitution as do municipal by-laws. The most recent legislative change was the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 2007, section 11 which in addition criminalises clients.

Decriminalisation has been under active discussion since 1994. Currently the South African Law Reform Commission has four proposals that were submitted for public discussion ranging from criminalisation to decriminalisation.[1]

In March 2012, the ANC Women’s League came out in favor of decriminalisation, and stated that they will campaign for this to become an ANC policy.[2] It is argued that decriminalisation "would challenge the stigma that surrounds sex workers. It would help secure their human rights and dignity, and make for safer work and living conditions for them."[3] not only so but decriminalising prostitution would limit the power the police have on sex workers and it would stop the police or law enforcers from taking advantage of sex workers. Police enforcement is rigorous and police taking and accepting bribes by the police and their clients is common place.

In April 2013, the Commission for Gender Equality also stated its support for decriminalization. They argued that current laws violate sections of the constitution, and that sex workers would be better protected if the law is changed.[4]

Health and well-being

Sex workers have been blamed for contributing to the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

World Cup moral panic

Because of fears of increased prostitution in connection with the 2010 Football World Cup, there were calls for prostitution to be legalised and regulated to help control AIDS and STDs and for the protection of the sex workers.[5] However this generated considerable opposition.[5] There was little evidence of increased prostitution, and no changes were made to the laws. The British Association on Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) has also stated that there is very low risk of transmission of HIV with a condom. See BASHH [6]


  1. ^ "South African Law Reform Commission Project 107, Discussion paper on sexual offences and adult prostitution". Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "Sex workers' vulnerability is our vulnerability". Daily Maverick. 2013-01-14. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  4. ^ "Decriminalise sex work: CGE". eNCA. 2013-05-16. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  5. ^ a b "SA prostitution plans condemned". BBC. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  6. ^ "Guidelines". Retrieved 2013-11-26. 

External links

  • ISS report on prostitution in Cape Town: 'Selling Sex in Cape Town. Sex Work and Human Trafficking in a South African City'
  • The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality
  • US State Department 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: South Africa

Migration and trafficking

  • UNESCO. Human Trafficking in South Africa: Root Causes and Recommendations
  • Stop Child Trafficking
  • Cape Town promotes sex tourism


  • 38 000 child prostitutes in SA
  • Child Sex Industry Booms In South Africa


  • Sexual Violence Research Initiative: Prostitution in South Africa: Developing a Research Agenda
  • Schoub BD, Martin D, Smith AN, Lyons SF, Padayachee GN, Naidoo S; Int Conf AIDS. 1989 Jun 4-9; 5: 1018 (abstract no. Th.G.P.15). The role of female prostitution in the heterosexual AIDS epidemic in South Africa
  • Luiz and Roets: On Prostitution, STDs and the Law in South Africa: The State as Pimp. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 18,1, 2000


  • Liesl Gerntholtz: Sex work and the law in South Africa – hit and miss?
  • Wojcicki, Janet M. by Movement to Decriminalize Sex Work in Gauteng Province, South Africa, 1994-2002. African Studies Review, Dec 2003
  • ISS/SWEAT submission to SALRC June 2007
  • Women's Net: Decriminalisation of sex work


  • Prostitution 'still illegal' in SA
  • World Cup worries
  • South Africa warned on World Cup child sex tourism
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