Doctors For Life International (DFL) as an overview of Project 107 (adult prostitution) commends the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) on being fundamentally practical about the final draft legislation on prostitution. DFL would also like to emphasise from the body of work we have compiled and the SALRC’s report, that we strongly acknowledge and support the global trend of success achieved through Partial Criminalisation by countries as far afield as Sweden, Norway, Canada, and France. This recommendation by the SALRC places South Africa (SA) beyond the realms of becoming a sex tourist destination.
DFL has detected a new radical shift in the methodology of the Partial or Full Criminalisation options in the Draft Amendment Bill of the SALRC. As we understand the report, they are using existing laws to be enforced in new practical ways; to demolish the pillars that allow prostitution to exist. This would be achieved by the total eradication of brothels, banning every and any form of advertising, and ensuring prevention of third parties (pimps) from benefiting financially from the practice of prostitution.
We concur with the SALRC’s report from a medical and scientific research standpoint, which highlights the inherently harmful lifestyle that prostitutes endure. In DFL’s experience with working together with multitudes of street prostitutes, we have found that 90-95% of the surveyed prostitutes would rather exit prostitution altogether.
Written and oral submissions made to the SALRC have shown that intrinsic to prostitution are numerous violations to human rights: sexual harassment, economic slavery, educational deprivation, job discrimination, partner and family violence, racism, classism, vulnerability to frequent physical and sexual assault, and being subjected to bodily invasions equivalent to torture. 1
“Criminalisation would send out a clear message to society that buying sexual services that are provided largely as a result of the prostitute’s poverty, inequality and unemployment is exploitative and therefore illegal.” Research supports this finding by the SALRC; it however does not diminish the importance of attempting a move toward abolishing the dehumanising effect of prostitution.
Prostitution does not fit comfortably into the international definition of decent work. On the contrary, although prostitution may seem to provide superficially attractive short-term financial benefits, it has not been shown to lift women out of a lifetime of poverty and economic inequality. The SALRC recommends that prostitution should not be recognised as a reasonable means to secure a person’s living in South Africa, and from a formal labour perspective should not be considered to be work or decent work. Thus there remains no justification to legitimise brothels and / or related enterprises by third parties.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that the SALRC is quoted as saying “South Africa has all the appeal to attract high tourist volumes without the need to erode its brand value by positioning the country as a sex tourist destination.” This takes into consideration the aftermath of sex tourism such as wide spread urban decay and a general decline in general tourism channels and revenues.
“The Commission believes that it would be naive to think that prostitution could be neatly excised from activities such as money laundering, drug dealing, sexual violence, assault, extortion and blackmail, through non-criminalisation.” This pattern confirms reports from other countries such as Australia and the Netherlands. 2
A shift away from criminalisation would cause an increase in child prostitution. Although illegal, the preference of some buyers for younger girls has repeatedly been observed due to the inclination of sexual addiction. The SALRC believes that child and adult prostitution cannot be separated as many adult prostitutes started out selling sexual services when they were children and at their most vulnerable.
The report stipulates that by screening “women only” (the prostitutes) insofar as health checks are concerned, simply does not make sense. From a public health perspective monitoring “women only” and not screening “prospective buyers” would deliberately not protect the prostitutes from acquiring Sexually Transmitted Infections or HIV / AIDS. This is because male clients can and very often do originally transmit these diseases to the women.
The SALRC and DFL agree that criminalisation provides a legal mechanism to remove a prostitute from coercive circumstances and to provide her with an opportunity to enter rehabilitation, training and reintegration programmes.
To conclude, Doctor’s for Life is immensely appreciative to the South African Law Reform Commission for the in-depth report rendered to date, and hopes to see a tangible and real difference in South Africa through these laws and the enforcement thereof to eliminate prostitution.
Doctors for Life International represents 1531 medical doctors and specialists, three-quarters of whom practice in South Africa. Since 1991 DFL has been actively promoting sound science in the medical profession and health care that is safe and efficient for all South Africans. For more information visit: http://www.doctorsforlife.co.za
1) Melissa Farley: Prostitution and Trafficking in nine countries Document.
2) Donna Hughes: Sexual Exploitation is nobody’s job (Panel Discussion) 2017