A South African church has called for the decriminalization of sex work, insisting that Jesus Christ was the first to do so.
Reverend Alan Storey of the Central Methodist Mission‚ Cape Town, together with members of the Asijiki Coalition for the Decriminalisation of Sex Work‚ last Thursday hoisted a banner over the church steeple in support of the decriminalisation of sex work.
The banner read “Jesus was the first to decriminalise sex work.” According to the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT)‚ this is the first time a South African religious institution has made a public statement in support of the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa.
“What the criminalisation of sex work has done is make a vulnerable group of people even more vulnerable‚” said Storey. “The unintended consequences of criminalising sex work are horrific.”
The cleric explained that the criminalisation of sex work disempowers sex workers from insisting on safe sex practices with clients. “This makes sex workers more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.”
Storey said that it also adds to the social stigma and “almost validates their social outcast status”. He said this can make it difficult for sex workers to access health services and law enforcement.
Pamela Chakuvinga‚ assistant national coordinator at national sex workers’ movement, Sisonke, said they are happy that they have pastors who recognise sex workers as human beings.
Chakuvinga said that here are religious leaders in Cape Town who think it is evil to do sex work. “They say that sex work is something demonic … They pray for sex workers to leave sex work.”
Constance Nothando Mathe‚ co-ordinator at Asijiki said: “I would like to emphasise to those pastors that it is not their duty to judge. Only God can do that. They are there to preach the word of God. The church is a non-judgemental space‚ so people should not judge sex workers.”