Rights of Sex Workers

There are close to 400,000 sex workers in South Africa. Because sex work is illegal, sex workers often experience difficulty accessing social (e.g., healthcare) and legal services. In turn, sex workers endure high health risks (e.g. rates of HIV/AIDS) and risks of police abuse. In 1995, an organization called SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force) was created to address the health and human rights of sex workers. In the morning, we’ll meet with various SWEAT officers: its Director to receive an overview of SWEAT’s work, its Advocacy Officer to learn about the proposed viability of decriminalizing prostitution, and the national coordinator of South Africa’s sex worker movement (and a proclaimed feminist) to discuss the plight and stereotyping of sex workers. After breaking for lunch, in the afternoon we’ll meet with SWEAT’s Outreach and Development Managers to learn about its outreach program and to accompany them on an outreach mission. At day’s end, we’ll return to the ship for dinner and debriefing.

Academic Objectives:

1. Given the continued existence of sex work despite its frequent illegality, how best can we reduce associated health risks (e.g., HIV/AIDS and substance abuse)?

2. In general, should sex work be illegal, legalized (but regulated by the government), or decriminalized (and so left to the private marketplace)? (In America, sex work is legalized only in certain Nevada counties.)

3. Are sex work and feminism mutually incompatible?