Incidences of sexual violence against women in Buffalo City Metro are among the highest in the country, with sex workers at the receiving end of a myriad of acts of violence of a sexual nature.
This is according to Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) human rights defender Monalisa Ngqisha, who works at the organisation’s East London office.
Ngqisha’s words come at a time when a prominent Eastern Cape Youth League provincial task team (PTT) leader remains behind bars for the alleged rape and assault of a sex worker. The incident happened in May.
Ngqisha said: “We are still fighting for sex workers to be afforded the humanity they also deserve”.
While she could not divulge exact figures of the prevalence of sex work in Buffalo City, she said it was “very popular”.
She said that that while significant strides had been made to curb the discrimination against sex workers, they still found themselves victims of rape, assault, and stigmatisation.
Because sex work is still criminalised, as a sex worker you cannot negotiate the terms and conditions of the sexual encounters you have. Sex workers still feel that it is better to operate in unsafe places such as the bush.
“Because sex work is still criminalised, as a sex worker you cannot negotiate the terms and conditions of the sexual encounters you have. Sex workers still feel that it is better to operate in unsafe places such as the bush.
Abuse is therefore rife, and sex workers are often taken advantage of because they cannot have a say. When reporting rape and assault at police stations, they still get asked questions like: ‘how can you say you were raped because you are a sex worker’.”
Department of health spokesman Lwandile Sicwetsha said the department was “strengthening provision of health services to sex workers and men having sex with men.
There are identified facilities that have been assisted to be user-friendly to this key population [sector].”
He said the Quigney and East London central clinics were some of those in the province that had been capacitated to provide these health services.
Sicwetsha also said pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP) medication to prevent HIV infection was not yet readily available in the province “as it is globally funded though the national Department of Health”.
Eastern Cape Aids Council spokesman Vuyisa Dayile said there was a high prevalence of harassment of sex workers in BCM and not enough effort had been made to provide support for sex workers.
“We have targeted high transmission areas such as truck depots in East London, Mthatha, PE, and Aliwal North. There we provide services such as HIV testing, free condoms and sometimes even counselling.”