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South Africa has the largest epidemic on sex workers and their clients, partners, and children led the country’s department of health, together with partners in both the government and civil society, to create a National Strategic Plan on /AIDS, South Africa’s health officials have called for the decriminalisation of sex work since at least 2007.

Health workers and health rights activists interviewed said that criminalisation obstructs efforts to prevent and treat infections among sex workers.

Decriminalisation creates safer working conditions for sex workers and maximizes their protection and dignity.

“South African sex workers deserve to live in dignity and provide for their families without fear and shame,” Vidima said.

“All over the world we and other rights groups find the same patterns of abuse where sex work is criminalised.” The 70-page report, “Why Sex Work Should be Decriminalised in South Africa,” documents violence experienced by sex workers in South Africa, and their difficulties in reporting crimes and creating safe places to work.

Sex workers also reported being sexually exploited by police and forced to pay bribes to officers.

The South African Police Service should investigate abuses by its officers against sex workers, including sexual exploitation, extortion, and harassment, and place a moratorium on arrests until a new law is passed.

Those who engage in sex work are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as everyone else.

Criminalisation of the sale or purchase of sex by consenting adults creates conditions in which violence and other abuse is tolerated, Human Rights Watch and said.The report highlights deep inconsistencies between different government bodies in their approaches to sex work and services for sex workers.The most notable difference was between the national department of health, which makes efforts to support sex workers with access to health care, and the criminal justice system, which takes a punitive approach.Sima (not her real name) lives in a small, dilapidated house in a sprawling township on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. “I wish I could just go away — not be with them while they are fighting,” she said. The reason for the gap, South Africa’s minister of health said last year, is "sugar daddies" — older men who have sex with much younger women.Most nights, she and her siblings go to bed hungry. “We just drink water and go to sleep.” Her mother works part-time as a cleaner. A few months ago, while visiting her older sister who lives a few blocks away, Sima was washing clothes near the road. Like many schools in Africa, the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) — a public high school near Cape Town — cautions girls about these relationships.

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