Prostitutes form body to advocate for right to trade

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

Prostitutes in Johannesburg are fighting to be recognised as professionals who have the same rights as other workers.

A Johannesburg branch of Sisonke, an organisation that advocates for the legalisation of prostitution, was launched in Hillbrow yesterday.

"We want to work with the police," Sisonke said. "We want to walk the streets and hotel foyers freely."

Wearing white vests with "Sex workers demand rights, not rescue" written on them the women lamented the constant harassment by the police and discrimination from the community.

"The police demand sex and assault us if we refuse. Hospital staff refuse to treat us," said the head of the Johannesburg branch, Busi Dhlomo.

She said legalising prostitution would ensure that prostitutes were protected from exploitation and change the public's negative perception of the sex trade.

It would also improve the living and working conditions of prostitutes and allow them to be "respected like any other person".

"People believe we spread HIV and contribute to crime. We want our voices as prostitutes to be heard," Dhlomo said.