#Saytheirnames‚ lobby group asks global Aids experts to act against murder of sex workers

18 July 2016 - 12:25 By Katharine Child

Rose Moabelo. Shemise Gordon. Sasha Lee Gordon. Thilivhani Mudau. Desiree Murugan. Sinia Pietersen. Anisa Adams. Kleintjie. Thulukanyao. These are the names of local sex workers who have been murdered‚ without their killers ever being found. Sweat‚ an advocacy group‚ wants you to #saytheirnames.Cellphone plotting leads to another arrest in Jayde murder caseAs many of the 18‚000 accredited delegates arrived for their first meeting at the 21st International Aids Conference in Durban on Monday‚ sex workers held placards detailing the stories of murdered colleagues.The sex workers wanted to highlight what has changed for sex workers since the last international Aids conference was held in Durban in 2000. “Nothing‚” according to Sally Shackelton‚ director of Sweat.Shackelton said: “We are tired of waiting. The last international Aids conference that was held in Durban was in 2000. Since them nothing has changed for sex workers. We are still criminalised. We still struggle to access health services."Many sex workers report being unable to get the treatment they need at government clinics without facing stigma. Others report being harassed by police and having condoms confiscated. Then there is their vulnerability to crime. Shackleton said police investigated some murders but in many cases‚ the killers were not found.“Sex workers’ lives are worth nothing."There are some suspects on trial‚ but the most part people get away with violence and there is a situation of impunity."She said: “Sex workers are very isolated from the criminal justice system so violence is vastly under-reported”."We don't know how many die."When Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa presented the sex worker health plan in December‚ even he admitted that sex workers were harassed by police who confiscate condoms from them.“We have one organ of the state providing a very necessary service and another organ of the state taking that very service away‚” he said.Sweat wants sex work decriminalised so that police do not have a legal reason to lock them up or arrest them.However‚ this has been discussed in South Africa for more than 15 years already.The Law Reform Commission - which investigated whether the law that makes prostitution illegal has to be changed - held hearings on decriminalisation in 2001 and accepted written submissions in 2012. "The process‚ has been too long‚" Shackelton said in a previous interview.In December‚ government launched the first ever sex worker plan to offer health services to sex workers.Under the plan‚ HIV negative sex workers will be given the Truvada pill that prevents HIV.But at the time‚ analysts said unless sex work was decriminalised‚ it would be very hard to help improve the health sex workers.- TMG Digital/The Times

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