THE SILENT RAPE OF SEX WORKERS

In South Africa, cases about rape have become our daily news, whether you read it on the morning news headlines, watch it on prime-time television news or hear about it from your neighbour. The news has become synonymous to hearing about the weather.

However, in the wake of the #Metoo campaigns and #Thetotalshutdown, there is a group of women whose voices are still suppressed. These women put their lives on the line to keep themselves, their families and their children below the poverty line in a country where unemployment is at an average of 52.15 percent. Crimes perpetrated against these women are not taken seriously, by the law, their neighbours, their partners and even some feminists.

Women who do sex work, are part of those women who are pushed to the margins, where they’re vulnerable and exposed to sexual violence because they chose to sell sex.

In South Africa studies that have been done in the past decades have shown that 1 in 5 sex workers will be raped in a period of 12 months, by either people posing as clients, police officers or their intimate partners. This study shows that sex workers are at high risk of rape, particularly where sex work is illegal.

The rape of sex workers comes in different shapes and folds, and because the women already sell sex, they are often seen as easy targets for such crimes. In South Africa, the current criminalisation of sex work means sex workers are on the frontline of gender-based violence, in that the perpetrator knows they are unlikely to report it, and that they are vulnerable and unprotected. Sex workers are targets because of these factors and the fact that they are often subject to violent misogyny [1].

In an instance were one is raped by a client, sex workers are reluctant to report the case to the police as they fear identifying themselves as sex workers, which puts them in jeopardy of being arrested or abused by the police.

Where police are involved or are the perpetrators, even if a case is successfully opened at the police station, it is most likely that the docket will get lost, or the case will be closed due to lack of evidence. This happens because police officers often cover for each other. In a study done in Cape Town, 12% of street-based sex workers reported that they had been raped by policeman [2].

In the case of intimate partner violence, sex workers are often blackmailed by their partners and made to feel less worthy because they sell sex. Some of their partners are threatened by their independence and the fact that they are making money from other men threatens their partners masculinity which can lead them to act out by being violent.

The stigma and discrimination that is attached to doing sex work is the main cause of violence experienced by sex workers. However, they face many folds of victimization because of the moral perspectives people hold. To many, sex workers are seen as people who deserve abuse because they chose to sell sex.

The current full criminalisation of sex work in South Africa leaves sex workers vulnerable to violence, harassment and abuse, and does not provide them with the necessary protection of their rights. International experience shows that the police can help prevent violence against sex workers, but this requires a big change in attitude. Sex workers must be thought of as an at-risk group who needs protection, rather than as a ‘nuisance’ or even a group who ‘deserve’ violence and abuse.

Research has shown that decriminalisation of sex work respects the rights of sex workers, reduces gender-based violence and will increase community and individual safety [3].

What is Decriminalisation of Sex Work?

Decriminalisation of sex work is when all laws that criminalise sex work in a country are removed and sex work is governed by the same laws that affect other employment, such as occupational health and safety and employment legislation.

What is Sex Work/er?

Sex work is the provision of sexual services for money or goods. Sex workers are women, men and transgendered people who receive money or goods in exchange for sexual services, and who consciously define those activities as income generating even if they do not consider sex work as their occupation.

*The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust organisation.

About the authors

Lesego Tlhwale is a Communication Professional and current Media & Advocacy Officer at Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), a human rights organisation advocating for the health and human rights of sex workers. Lesego is passionate about advancing human rights of LGBTI people and sex workers.
Nosipho Vidima is a Human Rights Activist, Black Feminist, HIV Rights Activist and Womxn Rights Activist. She currently works at SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) as a Human Rights and Lobbying Officer. Her daily work is Human Rights of sex workers nationally, where she insures that sex workers are reached with a holistic approach to accessing their basic and fundamental rights while accessing justice and legal recourse in the legal system that marginalises most women.

REFERENCES:

[1] Rangasami, j; constant, T; Manoek, S; Police Abuse of Sex Workers: Data from cases reported to the Women’s Legal Centre between 2011 and 2015; Women’s Legal Centre, 2016.

[2] Gould, C & Fick, N (2008). “Selling sex in Cape Town: Sex work and human trafficking in a South African city”. Pretoria/Tshwane, Institute for Security Studies.

[3] Manoek, S (2014). “Police Sensitisation Training Manual: A Guide for South African Police Service (SAPS) Officers to the Rights of Sex Workers and the LGBTI Community”. Women’s Legal Centre.

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Why #CSW63 Matters

In our previous blog The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) we described how UN Member States, civil society organisations and UN entities gather at UN headquarters in New York to discuss matters of importance for the rights of women across the world.

South Africa being a member state is represented by Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Bathabile Dlamini who leads a government and civil society delegation that includes  Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu. The delegation will present South Africa’s report on the status of social protection system, access to public service, sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in South Africa. Minister Zulu will also participate in some of the ministerial  roundtables, high level interactive dialogue and interactive expert  panels. 

So why is it important to us that they are there? Susan Hutchinson of the Equality Rights Alliance in Australia wrote about this best two years ago when she said the following about why CSW matters:

“It’s an advocacy tool. CSW is an opportunity to bring an international component and lens to issues that organisations and activists advocate on locally and domestically. Having issues you advocate on locally, such as women’s access to affordable housing or access to domestic violence leave, recognised in international frameworks is powerful. This international dimension then adds another point of leverage in the domestic advocacy work we all do. Holding governments to account on the commitments they make at CSW creates additional pressure for policy reform.”

Since CSW presents an opportunity to bring an international component to issues that the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust advocates on locally we would like to take this opportunity to highlight the problem of high rape rates coupled with low conviction rates for rapists in South Africa. Our Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign advocates for the planned and funded rollout of sexual offences courts. These courts are the key to restoring faith in the criminal justice system as well as increasing conviction rates for rape and decreasing the secondary victimisation of rape survivors. Sexual offences courts are sensitive to the needs of the survivor undergoing an intense ordeal. The courts help to get more convictions and send more rapists to jail because they have specially trained court supporters available to support rape survivors when they testify. We need the South African government to provide rooms at courts for court support to take place in private. We need a strong criminal justice system to hold rapists accountable.

With all eyes on CSW63 and our own government delegation attending we hope to make this campaign more visible. You can help us. This is your chance to get South Africa and the issues women face some international attention and leverage.

Social Media Package

  • Check out the RSJC webpage and social media pages on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about this important campaign.
  • Your experiences and ideas on social protection, public services and infrastructure matter. Tell the world how you want to make a difference using #CSW63. Find our selection of Tweets on sexual offences courts in South Africa below and post them throughout the week. * Tag Minister Zulu on @LindiweZulu6, Minister Dlamini on @shahlesonke and of course @GovernmentZA.
  • Some of the South African NGOs represented include Ilitha Labantu, GenderLinks and the National Shelter Movement of South Africa. Follow and tag Ilitha Labantu on @IlithaLabantu,

Colleen Lowe-Morna on @clowemorna from GenderLinks on @GenderLinks and Claudia Lopes on @claudia1lopes and Joy Lange representing the National Shelter Movement of South Africa @NSM_ZA.

Social Media Tools

You can copy and paste this selection of Tweets or Facebook posts in support of improved sexual offences court infrastructure into your Twitter feed this week:

  • Sexual offences courts are important as they are sensitive to the survivor and help to get more convictions and send more rapists to jail. We need the #SouthAfricanGovernment to roll out the necessary infrastructure for these courts now! @RSJCampaign #CSW63_SA @shahlesonke
  • We advocate for specially trained court supporters to be available to rape survivors when they testify. We need the South African government to provide rooms at courts for court support to take place in private. @RSJCampaign #CSW63_SA #CSW63 @CSW63
  • #SouthAfrica has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. This needs to change! We need a strong criminal justice system with specialised courts. @RSJCampaign #CSW63_SA #CSW63 @RapeCrisis @shahlesonke @Government_ZA

-Written by Kathleen Dey

Get Involved Now.

A new year always provides the opportunity to take on new challenges. Perhaps you are inspired to be more active in bringing about social change, but don’t know how. Our social media followers often ask us how they can get more involved with the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign (RSJC), so we have drafted an easy step-by-step guide:

Ways to be more politically and socially active

  1. The next time you are with family or friends, instead of letting conversation drift to idle chatter or celebrity gossip, discuss a particular cause that is close to your heart or that you feel strongly about.
  2. Stay focussed on one cause. It is fine to take up many causes, but always recognise your main cause.
  3. Find a political magazine, a local newspaper or an online blog and write for them on issues relating to your cause.
  4. Organize a group of four or five people and attend protests together.
  5. Talk to people that are different from you as a way to challenge stereotypes.

(Most of these ideas are from The Activist’s Handbook: 1000 Ways to Politically and Socially Activate Your Life)

Ways to support the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign

  1. Join our social media platforms by hitting “Like” on our Facebook Page and following us on Twitter @RSJCampaign.
  2. Share the posts, tweets and articles with your friends on your own social media platforms and tell people why you support this campaign. This way, our message reaches a wider audience.
  3. When we have public protest actions, join us physically or by sharing our message on social media.
  4. Consider donating to the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign to help us continue to do this work.

The RSJC believes that the South African Government should be held accountable for making sure that all survivors of sexual violence have access to a sexual offences court across the country. By supporting us in one or more of the above ways, we can do this together.

A new Rape Crisis campaign hits close to home.

It is estimated that 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and only 8.6% of rape perpetrators are convicted.

Unfortunately, most people believe these rapes only occur in dark alleyways by hooded strangers.

Rape Crisis’ new campaign reveals that the truth is a lot closer to home. 68% of rape survivors know their rapist. They have had their trust broken in the workplace, home, communities, and other places that should very well be a place of safety. They have been betrayed by a friend, husband, family member and colleague.

If women can’t trust those closest to them, who can they trust? Many struggle to speak out about their experiences for fear their trust will be further betrayed.

The harrowing campaign uses radio ads featuring actual survivors, to inform women that if they have no one speak to, they can speak to a trained Rape Crisis counsellor through a dedicated 24hr crisis line. This will also be supported by online film, and a surprising print campaign that communicates the dark secret that 68% of survivors are raped by someone they know.

The campaign was created by Ogilvy Cape Town with the help of Giant Films, We Love Jam and photographer David Prior.

The campaign was created by Ogilvy Cape Town with the help of Giant Films, We Love Jam and photographer David Prior.

Watch the Rape Crisis ad here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuBwyZkWXP0

Hear the radio spots below:

View the press adverts below:

68% of survivors know their rapist

Photographer David Prior

68% of survivors know their rapist

Photographer David Prior

68% of survivors know their rapist

Photographer David Prior


Rape Crisis Director, Kathleen Dey adds, “We need ordinary people in our communities who may feel helpless listening to this but who can make a difference by donating, if you need help or want to help, please call 021 447 9762, or visit rapecrisis.org.za to donate.” 
All proceeds will go towards our counselling service.

#SpeakToUs

Contact: 021 447 1467
Email: zeenat@rapecrisis.org.za

Credits:

Client:
Rape Crisis
Client Representative: Kathleen Dey
Product: Sexual Abuse Awareness
Title:
The Identikit
Agency:
Ogilvy Cape Town
Chief Creative Officer: Pete Case
Executive Creative Director: Tseliso Rangaka
Associate Executive Creative Director: Nicholas Wittenberg
Creative Director: Mike Martin
Associate Creative Director / Copywriter: Alex Goldberg
Creative Group Head / Art Director: Ryan Barkhuizen
Art Director: Karen Vermeulen
Agency Producer: Cathy Day
Client Service: Chris Spencer, Loren Westoby, Nefeli Valakelis
Production Company:
Giant
Director: Karien Murray
Producer: Laura Sampson
Editing:
Deliverance
Editor: Gordon Ray
Sound Design:
The Workroom
Sound Engineer: Stephen Webster
Post Production: Black Ginger