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Amnesty International policy recommending the decriminalisation of sex work welcomed locally

27 May 2016 - 10:37 By Roxanne Henderson

Mona is a homeless sex worker who has been beaten and gang raped by a gang of six armed police officers.Her story and those of many other vulnerable sex workers have been published in research reports by Amnesty International.The advocacy organisation also launched its policy on the protection of sex workers' rights‚ recommending the decriminalisation of sex work‚ which has been welcomed locally.The research‚ conducted over two years in Hong Kong‚ Papua New Guinea‚ Norway and Argentina‚ highlights the abuse sex workers such as Mona‚ who is from Papua New Guinea."The police started to beat my friend [a client] and me … Six police officers did sex to me one by one. They were armed with guns‚ so I had to do it. I don't have any support to come to court and report them‚" she told the organisation's researchers.The research gives details of sex workers being evicted from their homes‚ struggling to access healthcare‚ having run-ins with police and being raped and assaulted by clients.Laura‚ a sex worker from Argentina said: “He [a client] paid me and I was about to get out of the car when he grabbed me by the neck and cut me with a knife. I gave him all the money I had and my cell phone‚ and he let me go.”Lesego Tlhwale‚ of the South African NGO Sex Workers' Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT)‚ said that the official publication of the research and Amnesty International's adoption of its policy is an important step in achieving decriminalisation of sex work throughout the world.“We hope that their decision to support decriminalisation will influence other players‚" she said.Tlhwale said that many of the experiences of the sex workers in the four countries documented in Amnesty International's research are shared by sex workers in South Africa.In the Durban suburb of Glenwood‚ apparently known for its brothels‚ landlords have been asked by police to evict sex workers‚ following complaints from neighbours that traffic and crime are up in the area‚ Tlhwale said.SWEAT reported last week that police officers in Pretoria West allegedly harassed sex workers in the area‚ known to sex workers as the “Bush”‚ burning their belongings and condoms.In November a well-known sex worker was brutally murdered in the area.Tlhwale said this was concerning as one of the biggest problems relating to sex work in South Africa is the high HIV infection rate amongst the group.Amnesty International's policy calls on governments to: - Ensure all people can access their economic‚ social and cultural rights‚ education and employment options - Tackle harmful gender stereotypes and all forms of discrimination and structural inequalities that can lead to marginalized groups selling sex in disproportionate numbers - Refocus sex work laws away from catch-all offences that criminalise most or all aspects of sex work towards laws that provide protection from coercion including trafficking‚ acts of exploitation and abuse‚ and prevent the involvement of children in commercial sex - Remove criminal and other punitive regulation of consensual sex work between adults which reinforces marginalization‚ stigma and discrimination and can deny sex workers access to justice under the law - Ensure the participation of sex workers in the development of laws and policies that directly affect their lives and safety - Put in place effective frameworks that allow people to leave sex work if and when they choose - Ensure that sex workers have equal access to justice‚ health care and other public services‚ and equal protection under the law...

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