A prostitute talks with a man in a car in a street of Fortaleza, Ceara State, northeastern Brazil, on April 16, 2013.
Johannesburg - The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has called for the decriminalisation of sex work.
"Decriminalisation means: repeal all laws against sex work," CGE commissioner Janine Hicks said at the announcement of the institution&39;s position on the matter on Thursday.
"We believe it is the only viable approach to promoting and protecting the dignity and rights of sex workers," she said, adding that trafficking and child sex should remain crimes.
The commission believed criminalisation violated the Constitution&39;s sections 10, 12, and 22 -- which protected human dignity, freedom of security of the person, and freedom of trade, occupation, and profession.
Hicks said decriminalisation would mean reviewing legislation, including labour laws, and retraining police officers.
It would include establishing better working conditions, and allow sex workers to report brothel owners involved in trafficking or hiring children as sex workers.
Sex workers would also pay tax, like other workers.
According to Hicks, studies had shown that the term "sex work" was used to describe consensual work in this field, and was chosen by people in this type of work.
Prostitution was a word now associated with moral judgement and coerced sex work, where women had no choice, were forced into it, and needed to be rescued.
The CGE believed the issue should be stripped of moral judgement and seen in the light of constitutional rights.
Hicks said decriminalisation would improve sex workers&39; access to health care.
Studies showed there was a 59.6 percent HIV prevalence among sex workers in South Africa.
She said decriminalisation did not mean that people&39;s daughters would rush into this line of work. The point was to remove the abuse of sex workers and the violation of their constitutional rights.
CGE chairman Mfanozelwe Shozi said its stance would be taken to Parliament, where various committees would debate it.
The CGE&39;s role in terms of chapter nine of the Constitution is to advise government and Parliament on issues relating to gender and equality, and to make recommendations on regulations underlying the status of women.
Male and trans-gender sex workers are included in the CGE&39;s stance on sex work.
In its submission, the CGE compared various international approaches. South Africa, the United States, and the Middle East chose criminalisation. This made sex work illegal and sought to reduce the industry, with the support of those opposed to it, on religious, moral, or feminist grounds.
The United Kingdom had modified its approach to allow the sale of sex, but to ban all related activities, such as soliciting, brothel keeping, and procurement, which effectively criminalised it.
Sweden was the first country to implement a partial system by criminalising buying sex services, regarding it as a form of abuse against women. Researchers found sex workers moved to different areas and condom use dropped because of this approach.
New Zealand and New South Wales, and other states in Australia, had decriminalised sex work. Studies in New Zealand showed this allowed sex workers to protect themselves, improved the relationship between themselves and police, and had no impact on demand for their services.
Themba Godi, chairman of Parliament&39;s public accounts standing committee, said the CGE had taken the right approach in narrowing down its motivation for decriminalisation to a constitutional issue.