The Fate Of The Prostituted Girl, Woman Or Transgender Is In Your Hands

Open Letter To MPs

Dear Honourable Members

Addressing the harm and exploitation of women in the system of prostitution, gender based violence and patriarchy, through the enactment of the Equality Model Law

As organisations that have worked tirelessly to ensure greater protection for those pushed to the margins of society by economic forces, we know we can count on your support. We are also well aware of your commitment as a Member of Parliament to uphold our Constitution which enshrines the rights to equality, human dignity, life and freedom from exploitation.

We also know of your commitment as an MP to eradicate the scourge of Gender Based Violence (GBV) which has gripped our country. This was demonstrated last year when you took a stand to vote for amendments to laws which would not only protect women but also serve as deterrents to would-be perpetrators and prevent recurrences of GBV.

While all these efforts are highly commendable, there’s a sector of women in society that have been exploited for far too long and their plight met largely with indifference. Under total criminalisation, the current law, they face daily physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

These are women, girls and trans people trapped in the system of prostitution and they could be your daughter, sister, brother or cousin. Most of them entered the sex trade to escape poverty or homelessness, childhood sexual abuse or abandonment or race and gender inequality. Most are under the coercion of someone who feeds off their prostitution.

The fate of the prostituted person lies with you. We need your help to end the exploitative sex trade, which makes profit out of the objectification of women, girls, gender non-conforming and trans people.

The fate of the prostituted person now depends on your vote when the bill on adult prostitution comes to Parliament, hopefully later this year. 

Parliament amended the Sexual Offences Act in 2007 to criminalise the buying of sex, which recognized the responsibility of those who buy sex for the harms they cause by exploiting those who are vulnerable. We now ask you to consider an amendment that would decriminalize ONLY those who sell sex and support them to have the option to exit and be re-integrated into society. This legal framework, known as the Equality Model Law or Nordic Law is a form of partial decriminalization. It was pioneered in Sweden in 1999 as part of a number of laws aimed at ending gender-based violence.

The abolitionist Equality model would replace the current irrational prohibitionist law with a rational coherent law and policy that would protect those who are exploited in the system of prostitution and deter new entry. The Equality Model Law decriminalises ONLY those that directly sell sex, while keeping legal prohibitions against sex buying, pimping, and brothel owning. It funds and implements comprehensive social services, including access to health services, education and job training for people in prostitution.

The Equality model law has been adopted by a growing number of countries, including Norway(2009), Iceland (2009), Canada (2014), Northern Ireland (2015), France (2016), Ireland (2017) and Israel (2018). Other countries and states in the USA are also considering it.

We look forward to meeting with you to answer any questions you might still have regarding the merits of the Equality Model Law. Please indicate by emailing me if you would be interested in further clarification on the Equality Model Law.

Your vote counts. We ask you to help us end the harms of the prostitution system by giving this progressive law a fair hearing and be on the right side of justice and history.

Yours in the struggle for justice for all women, girls, non-gender conforming and trans people.

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge
Executive Director

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