Prostitution is a global epidemic, permeating all societies. Women in particular seem to get the brunt of the punishment surrounding sex work, despite the fact that many are simply trying to survive in a world that wants to blame them for their situation. Luckily, many countries around the world are trying to remove the stigma surrounding prostitution by legalizing it. Although many are not quite there yet, Limpopo, a province in southern Africa, is trying to do its part by offering a safe place for sex workers.
Sex Workshop for Sex Workers
Hlokomela, an HIV and AIDS treatment an education center in Limpopo, worked with the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) to hold a sex workshop for stakeholders who interact with sex workers (such as social workers from local community, health workers, etc.) in an effort to enlighten them on the truth of the situation and ultimately change their understanding of sex work. The hope was that the workshop would curb discrimination and negative behavior towards sex workers.
Hlokomela itself is an organization that educates sex workers on condom usage, HIV and AIDS information (as well as providing testing), and explains the health risks of the profession. They are truly serving an important role, from counseling those who are AIDS or HIV positive, to working with stakeholders to decriminalize sex work. Knowledge is power, and understanding is everything: if Hlokomela can make a breakthrough using these tools, they could be pioneers in the sex worker community and set an example for the rest of the world.
The Brutal Truth
Unfortunately, they have their work cut out for them. Sex workers are frequently discriminated against when they need help, from the denial of healthcare to failure of the justice system against abuse from a client, exclusively based on judgment of their profession.
The irony of this judgment lies in the numbers: in the U.S., around 80,000 people are arrested annually for soliciting sex. Prostitution wouldn’t exist if there weren’t people willing to support it, effectively making its criminalization unduly harsh on the people working within it.
However, it seems that Washington D.C. may soon turn the tide for our country: the bill was drafted in 2017 (called Reducing Criminalization to Promote Public Safety and Health Act) and is currently still being debated.