South Africa: Decriminalising Sex Work Is the Only Rational Choice to End Stigma, Discrimination and Violence Against Sex Workers


Marcel van der Watt’s recent opinion piece on the effects of decriminalising sex work in South Africa makes such outlandish claims that it’s tempting to ignore him, if what he wrote wasn’t so disturbing and misrepresentative of the sex workers’ rights movement.

Marcel van der Watt begins his article in Daily Maverick, Decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa will only bring more harm (17 April 2019), by describing his supposed “insider’s perspective” on issues of sex work, but attributes violence in sex work exclusively to involvement in sex work, ignoring the impacts of criminalisation and the broader context of chronic gender-based violence endemic in patriarchal societies, such as South Africa.

He cautions against the deafening voices of white privileged intellectuals in the “sex work vs trafficking” debate, but strangely opens his opinion piece by asserting himself as an expert. His closing call to save the “girl-child who will inherit our ‘village’ ” also reveals a lack of self-awareness of his own positionality as a privileged, white male.

Indeed, Van der Watt’s paternalistic view on matters pertaining to the governance of (mostly) women’s bodies needs to be brought into serious question.

Sex work is work and it remains an important…


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Publish date : 2019-04-29 09:42:32

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