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      Targets of Hate, Shame or Exploitation?: The (Violent) Conundrum of Sex Work in Democratic South Africa

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            Abstract

            Whorephobia is the fear or hatred of sex workers. Whorephobia manifests in various ways in official legislation, popular consciousness, the medical literature, law enforcement and public responses to sex work. All aspects of sex work are fully criminalised following its origins in archaic colonial law. International and local literature has documented how the criminal law on adult, consensual sex work renders sex workers vulnerable to murder, rape, exploitation and other forms of violence, while increasing their risk of HIV and other forms of ill health. This vulnerability impacts directly on public health, while making society less safe. Deeply worryingly, recent recommendations from the South African Law Reform Commission (2017) urged the Department of Justice to maintain this status quo.

            This article explores whorephobia in the South African context through two case studies of violence in Cape Town in 2013: the high-profile criminal case of the artist Zwelethu Mthethwa who kicked sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo to death, and Tim Osrin's assault of domestic worker Cynthia Joni. The analysis provides a critique of the power structures created by the criminal law and draws on the theoretical framework of stigma-mitigating strategies within sex work developed by Weitzer. We conclude by arguing that the criminal law supports the radical dehumanisation of sex workers which contributes to manifestations of extreme hatred in the form of hate crimes and torture.

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            Author and article information

            Contributors
            Journal
            10.2307/j50020082
            intecritdivestud
            International Journal of Critical Diversity Studies
            Pluto Journals
            2516-550X
            2516-5518
            1 June 2020
            : 3
            : 1 ( doiID: 10.13169/intecritdivestud.3.issue-1 )
            : 9-24
            Affiliations
            African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
            Independent Scholar, Sonke Gender Justice, Cape Town, South Africa
            Independent Scholar, Cape Town, South Africa
            Article
            intecritdivestud.3.1.0009
            10.13169/intecritdivestud.3.1.0009
            47c1b9d5-ea23-43f0-ad57-10eff101aa6a
            © 2020 International Journal of Critical Diversity Studies

            All content is freely available without charge to users or their institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission of the publisher or the author. Articles published in the journal are distributed under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

            History
            Custom metadata
            eng

            Social & Behavioral Sciences
            Sex work,South Africa,stigma,whorephobia,hate crimes

            Notes

            1. National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and Another v. Minister of Justice and Others 1999 (1) SA 6 (CC).

            2. Minister of Home Affairs and Another v. Fourie and Another 2006 (1) SA 524 (CC). This landmark decision led to the passing of the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006.

            3. Women's Legal Centre Trust v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others (United Ulama Council of South Africa and Others as amici curiae) and two related matters [2018] 4 All SA 551 (WCC)

            4. Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act 92 of 1996; Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act 1 of 2008. In December 2017, African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP Cheryllyn Dudley introduced a private member's Bill - the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill - which attempts to place several restrictions on a woman's right to abortion. The Portfolio Committee on Health rejected the Bill on 9 May 2018, noting that “The Committee was unanimous in the view that the Bill was fatally flawed, not practical and would place huge financial burden on the Department of Health, which was already under-staffed and faced financial challenges - if the Bill was not implementable, there was no value in passing the legislation”. Portfolio Sub-Committee on Health “Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill: Briefing”. Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2 May 2018, available https://pmg.org.za/committee-meeting/26259/

            5. 2002 (6) SA 642 (CC).

            6. S v. Mthethwa 2017 ZAWCHC 28 (16 March 2017), at para 114.

            7. Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill [B9-2018]. Available at: www.justice.gov.za/legislation/hcbill/B9-2018-HateCrimesBill.pdf

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