top of page

Legalising sex work is not a moral issue, it’s a human rights issue.

The case against Sifiso Mkhwanazi for the murder of one woman believed to be a sex worker has been postponed to February 2023 following DNA delays. Mkhwanazi has only been charged with the murder of one women although six bodies were discovered at his father’s workshop in Johannesburg in October this year. Police have failed to process the DNA and identify the missing women to their families. EWN states ‘Since his arrest, there has been little movement in his case.’

This case is just a reflection of the shocking failures, attitudes and harm the police and government have committed to the dignity and safety of sex workers in South Africa.

But it seems there may be some form of light at the end of this dark tunnel that runs through the underworld of GBV in our country. A new bill has been proposed and is now open for public comment that seeks to decriminalise sex work.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill of 2022 repeals the Sexual Offences Act (previously Immorality Act), 1957 (Act No. 23 of 1957). A move that is 65 years overdue from the day the law was passed. You may remember this original act as the first major piece of Apartheid legislation- it included the prohibition of sexual intercourse between white people and non-white people. It was made by a government from a mentality that is no longer relevant to this country and its values.

In the media statement published on 9th December, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola states what has long held true: ‘Criminalising sex work has not stopped the selling or buying of sex, nor has it been effective. If anything, it has led to higher levels of violence against sex workers.’

The bill does not regulate sex work, only decriminalises it meaning that sex workers will finally be entitled to protection by law enforcement and no longer charged by police. The minister continued that it would mean ‘better access to health care and reproductive health services for sex workers, as well as compliance with health and safety and labour legislation. It would also afford better protection for sex workers, better working conditions and less discrimination and stigma.’

If you’re still on the fence, here are some things to consider:

  • If sex work continues to be criminalised workers will continue to be forced to work in unsafe, abusive and dangerous conditions.

  • The fact is that most sex workers are women of colour, providing the main source of income for their children and other dependents.

  • To criminalise it just feeds into the many factors that drive the industry such as poverty, unemployment and inequality.

  • We cannot address gender-based violence without addressing sex workers and the obvious targets they are for this problem.

  • How can we criminalise paying for something or earning money for something that is completely legal when given or received for free?

  • In countries where sex work has been legalised, regulation has led to safer work environments, the outlawing of public sex work, exploitation (pimping), regular health checks and the registration of sex workers.

  • While there is no evidence that legalising sex work decreases incidences of sex trafficking (a huge issue in South Africa), it definitely exposes cases of it and decreases the demand when legal workers are readily available. It would make it easier as well to identify cases where sex trafficking and child sex work is happening, if underground exploitation and unregistered brothels are outlawed. Anyone inside an unregistered brothel or who is exploiting workers would be assumed to be doing it illegally, by force and against the will of workers involved. *

The fact is, sex workers exist, and whether or not their work is legal or not they will exist. The demand for them will always exist. We cannot afford to further disadvantage or endanger their lives. The question is not if sex work should be legalised anymore, it is when will it be.



A copy of the Bill is available on the website of the Department at

The comments on the Bill must be submitted to the Chief Directorate: Legislative Development on or before 31 January 2023.

Postal address:

The Director-General: Justice and Constitutional Development

Private Bag X 81, Pretoria , 0001

Marked for the attention:

Tsietsi Sebelemetja or

E-mail: ; or

Fax no.: 012 406 4632.

Here is a basic format you can copy and paste to this email


HEADING: The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill of 2022

BODY: I [INSERT NAME], residing in [PROVINCE], hereby show support for the abovementioned bill. Sex work in South Africa should be decriminalized because [include your personal comments on why]

Contact details:



*many studies show that the legalisation of sex work leads to an increase in sex trafficking due to an increase in demand but I have yet to find one that correlates the legalisation and regulation to increased accessibility to stats of an underworld that would be further fed by lack of legalisation

and regulation. These are things that will surely need to be addressed and fought further than they already are not being done so by the government and police. Some suggest that tax from regulating the sex work industry can be put towards fighting sex trafficking at large.


Commenting has been turned off.
Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page