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Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights

In the streets of South Africa, sex workers face tough challenges – harassment, discrimination, and even violence. These struggles violate their basic human rights. The sex worker program that NACOSA implemented since 2013 works with community organisations like the Centre for Positive Care to help people like Linda, a strong single mother of three who is a former sex worker and now a peer educator.

“Sex work is a job.” Linda emphasises the need of respecting the dignity and humanity of individuals doing this work. Linda recalls how difficult it was to provide for her children in unexpected ways during her early years in Polokwane:”It was hard to sleep with someone whose age is the same as your father. It was very tough, but I had to do it to support my kids,” She shares. “There was a time when the police picked me up at 3 am, sexually abused me, and said it was a punishment for the job I do,” Linda recounts the extremely tough experiences she went through before coming into contact with the sex work programme.

Sex Workers Rights

Nevuari Mpfariseni – Advocacy officer, Centre for Positive Care

“We provide different services for sex workers, like advocating for their rights and clinical support services,” says Nevuwari Mpfariseni from the Centre for Positive Care. Despite COVID-19 challenges, the organisation distributed essential supplies like sanitisers and masks, offering a lifeline during tough times. “During COVID it was really hard for sex workers, but the Centre for Positive Care provided us with sanitisers and masks,” Linda says.

Nevuwari urges: “I want to remove the level of stigma, discrimination, prejudice, and stereotypes associated with sex workers. Let’s love those sex workers.”

Linda’s life changed when she came across a peer educator who shared with her about the opportunity to become a peer educator. “My life is now better, but what about others who are still on the streets? I want to empower other ladies,” she says.

Linda’s journey from sex worker to peer educator shows that the right support and advocacy can make a big difference:


“Now I am a former sex worker. They can see the example, it’s me. I told them ‘you know what? Things can change in life’.”

Read about an economic empowerment initiative for sex workers: Red Umbrella GLO Evaluation

Watch: Sex workers rights are human rights