“As a community of survivors of the system of prostitution we understand that 24-year-old Sumaya Raylene Hoosen was driven into prostitution in order to survive. We understand the fear she had as we are always constantly under attack as prostituted women”. So says Siphindile Cele, KwaZulu Natal Leader of the Kwanele survivor movement which advocates for the Abolitionist Equality Law. Hoosen was found dead in a Chatworth park on Saturday 23 February.
“Violence against prostituted women does not only happen due to social stigmas but also because men who pay for sex seek out vulnerable women to abuse and do so with impunity”. Cele adds that as prostitution inherently makes women vulnerable, they are alone with strange men who have no interest in their health, safety or well-being.
“Prostituted women are desperate and have no other options,” she says. “Men who pay for sex know this and they use that power knowing that women have no choice otherwise they would not be there. These men are violent, abusive and cruel.”
Cele asserts that if the law was taken seriously, Hoosen’s husband Mohamed would have not been allowed to be his wife’s pimp. “If selling sex were not widely viewed as a job like any other or a necessary service, this situation of killing women would never happen,” she says.
“Government continues to fail us as women who are sold by pimps and brothel owners to men who do not care about our basic human rights as women”.
Kwanele is urging the South African national government to urgently engage with and attend to the grave issues plaguing prostituted women.
“As a survivor of the system of prostitution, I am deeply disappointed. Last year it was Siam Lee, now its Sumaya. What kind of alarm is needed for government to acknowledge that men who buy sex are destroying us. We want justice to be served in this case and we want government to hear our needs so that these unnecessary killings of prostituted women can cease”. she concludes.
Last June, Kwanele communicated with the media following the news of the passing of Philani Ntuli, the accused in the abduction and murder of Siam Lee. The movement had been present throughout the court proceedings and held a March to SAPS headquarters. An open letter was addressed to President Cyril Ramaphosa in the light of the high rate of femicide in South Africa.
Kwanele members are once again overwhelmed with feelings of shock and a sense of sadness and determined that this time the justice system will not fail another deceased prostituted woman. Kwanele is calling on the state to speedily investigate and prosecute so as to facilitate the process of closure and healing for those parties affected by the murder.
A recent study conducted by the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) shows that nearly 101 prostituted women who died in South Africa in 2018 and 2019 were murdered. While we welcome this study, we know that the violence on prostituted women cannot all be because of the criminality of the system of prostitution and the stigma associated with it – but because of the attitude of sex buyers, pimps and brothel owners towards prostituted women. Buying sex makes men prone to violence. According to study in US by (Farley et. al, 2015) on men who buy sex showed that they are nearly eight times more likely to rape than any other men and engage in all forms of violence against women.
Embrace Dignity and Kwanele call on the state to prioritise all cases of sexual assault and murders of prostituted women, Furthermore, to investigate establishments that illegally operate as brothels, like the one from which Siam Lee was abducted.
Embrace Dignity and Kwanele call on the State and Parliament to enact the Abolitionist Equality Law, which is the only legal framework with a clear and coherent strategy for addressing the system of prostitution. The Abolitionist Equality Law, also known as the Swedish Law or partial decriminalisation, decriminalises those bought, sold and exploited in the system of prostitution and supports them to exit while all other aspects remain criminalised. This law was pioneered in Sweden and has been adopted by a growing number of countries, including Canada, France and Ireland.
As an advocate of the abolitionist Equality Law, Cele, via the Kwanele survivor movement, is calling for the partial decriminalisation of prostitution through legal and policy reforms that decriminalises prostituted people and offer them a way out of the system through a comprehensive Exit programme.
Key aspects of this model include the following:
* Buyers and pimps are criminalised under this approach in order to reduce demand for prostitution.
* Sex buyers are criminalised, subject to punishment.
* Facilitators / traffickers are culpable for ‘procurement’ or trafficking and are subject to punishment.
* Those who exploit others through prostitution are criminalised.
* Sellers are decriminalised.
* Resources are provided for individuals to exit prostitution
The law has been implemented with great success in Sweden and has been adopted by a growing number of countries, including:
Sweden – since 1999
Norway & Iceland – since 2009
Northern Ireland – since 2015
France – since 2016
Republic of Ireland – since 2017
Israel – Jan 2018