Sex worker wins appeal

A FORMER sex worker who was fired from a brothel for refusing to give oral sex has won the legal right to sue for unfair dismissal.

Sowetan caught up with "Kylie" in Cape Town yesterday. Unfairly dismissed by her bosses more than four years ago, she was celebrating her hard-won historic victory in the labour appeal court last week.

For the first time the court said sex workers could take their bosses to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for unfair dismmisal.

Kylie worked for Brigitte's brothel for more than a decade, doing more than 10 clients "on a good day", she said.

But in 2006, when she complained of 14-hour working days, no days off and refused to give oral sex to clients, she got the axe.

The 43-year-old is now living in a shelter in Melkbosstrand, 30km outside Cape Town.

The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce, with the help of lawyers, took up her case, but it was rejected by the CCMA who said sex work was illegal.

The CCMA said iIllegal workers could not claim labour rights. The labour court said the same thing in 2008. But last week the labour appeal court ruled in favour of Kylie.

"When I was told last Friday that I had won, I burst into tears. I phoned my mom and said I had won the case," Kylie said.

She said the case took a long and painful time but she had not given up because she had promised her colleagues she would fight for their rights

"I hope the girls (sex workers) will now stand up for themselves," Kylie said.

"They should take full advantage of this victory. I have done it for them.

"They need protection. Animals have rights, why don't we?"

Kylie said when she started the case it was not about getting money, but "fighting for her rights, having my voice heard".

She said she would not go back into the industry because there was a lot of abuse and exploitation.

"All I want now is to find myself a new job. Because I had been in this industry for a long time it's hard to find a job elsewhere. But I will keep searching."

A month ago Kylie left her abusive boyfriend of four years to live in a shelter.

"I survive on friends. It's hard to quit the industry but I won't go back," she said.