On Thursday, around 200 sex workers marched through Johannesburg in support of decriminalizing prostitution.
“I wear this to work,” Dudu Dlamini, wearing hiking boots and a long dress, said. “No high heels or short skirts.”
She added, “It requires expertise and skills you don’t possess.”.
“I purchased my own house out of sex work,” said Constance Mathe, who has been in the industry for 16 years.
Mathe, a mother of two, used to work as a domestic worker but earned only 1,000 rands ($72) a month.
Aid organizations estimate that between 120,000 and 180,000 sex workers work in South Africa.
Prostitution laws in this country were drawn up during apartheid and punish sex workers and their clients.
At the protest, Dlamini said, “Sex work is not a crime.”
As the group advanced, signs emblazoned with “Where is the crime?” and “Decrim sex work now” were held aloft.
Protesters marched with their faces covered, flanked by police cars.
Police beat us up and ask us for money. And sex workers who are abused by their clients will be prosecuted for being sex workers,” explains Yonela Sinqu of the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT).
Prostitutes are often victims of violence and rape, according to the organization.
SWEAT estimates that around ten sex workers are murdered every year, but that many cases go unreported.