stop harassing us, say sex workers

" />

Cape Town police appear to have been using "bylaws that never made it onto the statute books" to arrest prostitutes in the city, the Cape high court heardyesterday.

Cape Town police appear to have been using "bylaws that never made it onto the statute books" to arrest prostitutes in the city, the Cape high court heardyesterday.

Sweat, the sex workers' advocacy group, is seeking an interdict from the court to prevent police from harassing prostitutes by repeatedly arresting them - without ever taking them to court.

Advocate Wim Trengove, for Sweat, said police who claimed the "sex workers" were arrested for "loitering" had cited "a non-existent clause" - of a set of draft bylaws - which itself was never enacted by the City of Cape Town.

The police had also sought to rely on a section of a 1995 set of bylaws dealing with people who obstructed traffic in public streets.

"This crime has nothing to do with loitering. It's about disobeying a police officer after disrupting traffic," Trengove said.

Attempts to justify arrests on the basis of other laws, including a provision of the Sexual Offences Act that made it an offence for someone to wilfully exhibit themselves "in an indecent dress" in public view, were also inadequate, he said.

Trengove said records revealed that at Claremont police station, 106 "sex workers" were arrested between January and December 2006.

None of these arrests resulted in a prosecution, every case was withdrawn.

If police at Claremont knew their motive for arrest could not trigger a prosecution then their only motive must be harassment, Trengove said.

Speaking in Pretoria yesterday, Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the police were not above the law.

"Nobody has the right to violate anybody's rights ... that includes the police," Mthethwa told a media briefing on the justice, crime prevention and security cluster.

He was responding to a question about "police brutality" and the treatment of prostitutes. - Sapa

X