The ANC Women’s League has a plan of action aimed at decriminalising prostitution in South Africa, notwithstanding expected opposition from churches.
According to a report in City Press, ANCWL treasurer and Higher Education Deputy Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize, said the league had planned its approach carefully because it expected resistance.
The ANCWL reortedly has its sights on the party’s December conference in Mangaung, where it hopes to pass a resolution decriminalising sex work.
City Press writes that the league has authored a discussion document on gender in preparation for the Mangaung conference. The document notes that the South African Law Reform Commission is investigating new prostitution laws. It argues that the law treats prostitutes as criminals but does not treat their male clients “with the same heavy-handedness”. It says the ANC should “support a position that will embrace the dignity of women”.
Mkhize told City Press: “As we move to the policy conference, we want to put the facts before people and build buy-in that way.”
Asked how the country’s churches were expected to react to the proposed change in legislation, Mkhize referred to abortion legislation that government signed into law in 1996.
“Churches were saying no, but we still passed the law. The problem with churches is that churches prepare people for heaven, but not for life on earth. They are not supposed to condemn, they are supposed to educate.”
Reacting to Mkhize’s remarks about churches, Family Policy Institute director Errol Naidoo said the league’s proposal was “preparing people for hell on earth.”
“Decriminalised prostitution does nothing to help women and children trapped in prostitution. It only institutionalises and legitimises prostitution making it more socially acceptable,” he says in a newsletter today.
“The people who benefit most from a decriminalised sex industry are the pimps, brothel owners, crime syndicates and traffickers. They become legitimate business people and can ply their evil trade with impunity. Decriminalised prostitution is the worst scenario for corrupt prone SA,” he says.
In a report on the ANCWL and prostitution today, Daily Maverick says that “while the Women’s League says the Commission is ‘investigating new prostitution laws’, it is worth noting this investigation began in May 1996 and has not yet returned any report”.
The online newspaper also presents some other points of view on legalising prostitution, including the view off former police commissioner Jackie Selebi, that it would reduce the incidence of rape; and a view that it would facilitate more effective HIV and public health management.