'Sex work must be legal'
Former judge says Constitutional Court is duty-bound to correct this injustice
Former Constitutional Court Judge Zak Yacoob believes that if there is one thing the Constitutional Court still needs to rectify, it is the decriminalisation of prostitution.
"I am not saying sex work is a good thing; nor am I saying that it is a bad thing. The morality of it does not interest me," Justice Yacoob told The Times in an interview to mark the 21st anniversary of the constitution.
"I think making sex work criminal is wrong. It is against the [prostitutes'] right to make their own decisions.[Prostitutes] are the most vulnerable people as far as HIV is concerned. We cannot solve the HIV crisis without decriminalising sex work. So I think that is an issue which I would love the court to reconsider in the constitutional era of today."
Yacoob, who retired in 2013, has always gone against the grain. Having lost his eyesight at 16 months due to meningitis, he beat the odds to become the first blind judge. He said South Africa, which boasts one of the world's most progressive constitutions, was still riddled with inequality, racism and patriarchy.
Sex work is illegal in South Africa. However, 150,000 sex workers are known to work throughout Mzansi. Sunday Times took a ride with SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) on their outreach program to serve sex workers. SWEAT aids sex workers by providing them with contraceptives, paralegal advice and a helping hand to any problems they face. There has been increased pressure on the Department of Justice to bring in new legislation in an attempt to protect sex workers. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TimesLive
"My view is that there is a disconnect between the law and the constitution on the one hand and what people believe and think," said Yacoob. "To give an example, the court has said gay and lesbian people can get married, [but] 99% of the people in our country believe that gays and lesbians live in sin.
"The Constitutional Court has said that everybody is equal and yet the majority believe that men are superior. We are supposed to live in a nonracial society but there are many, even African people, who think that white people have better brains.
"A good place to start in rooting all this out would be to thwart the racist conversations around dinner tables. It is easy to talk of nonracism and nonsexism," he said.
"It is a different thing to be a nonracist and nonsexist at heart and for me it was a hard job to do which I did.but people have to do it."