African sex workers demand equal rights, not rescuing

Date: January 1, 1970
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The article describes a sex workers rights conference held in South Africa.

This article may be used to:
  • Highlight difficulties facing sex workers
  • As an example of gender aware reporting
  • An example of the marginalised communities affirming their rights
  • Dispel the belief that only women can be sex workers
  • Highlight misconceptions about people living with HIV
  • Show how one can protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and how to can slow its progression
  • Discuss religious views on the use of condoms
  • Highlight the importance of including sex workers in decisions that affect their lives

Trainer’s notes
The article portrays sex workers in a positive light, pointing out that they are standing up for themselves in calling for an end for the criminalisation of their trade and demanding that they be treated with equal rights and dignity. Furthermore, the article highlights the challenges facing sex workers. They work in very dangerous conditions where they are vulnerables to abuse from both their clients and the police who are supposed to protect them. Not only do they faced these dangers but their trade lives them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, rape and other forms of abuse.

 It is also positive that the article criticises HIV /AIDS campaigns for leaving sex workers out of their campaigns whilst they blame sex workers for spreading HIV/AIDS. In order for these campaigns to be effective there is a need to involve all players concerned, sex workers involved. The article also looks at common misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS one woman tells of her experience with clients who are reluctant to use condoms with her even though she tells them that she is HIV positive because they believe she does not “look sick.”
The article also dispels the belief that only women can be sex workers. It sources men involved in the trade and looks at the problems they face. This point is however obscured by the fact that the article only pictures scantily clad women are used hence giving an impression that its only women involve in sex work. Morever, the article uses gender aware language. The term sex workers is used instead of the more common and insulting word, prostitute.
An interesting gender component is brought into the story; one woman was forced into the trade because she had to feed her children; while both men and women can be sex workers, their reasons often differ.
Discussion Questions
  • What is sex work? Why do women engage in sex work ?
  • Should sex work be legalised ?
  • What are the greatest challenges to sex workers rights ? What resources are available to deal with these? 
 Training exercises
  •  Ask participants to write an article for World Aids Day on sex work and Aids
  • Ask participants to interview people on the streets on their views on the legalisation of sex work 
  • There are gender oriented gaps and flaws with laws regarding loitering and prostitution. Women end up being arrested while men go free ask participants to come up with recommendations to law makers to do away with the gender bias in the laws.
 Other training resources
Related articles
For more information on the rights of Sex workers visit
General information on HIV/AIDS (South Africa)
Related GL Commentaries

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