A new clinic for sex workers and their families has just opened in Observatory behind the SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) head office in Cape Town. The Cym van Dyke Clinic is the first clinic of its kind in Cape Town, and it’s named after the trans sex-work activist and long-time advocate of the same name.
The new clinic will provide holistic health care to sex workers, as state/public health-care centres often discriminate against sex workers – doctors and nurses turn them away and refuse them treatment due to the stigma attached to sex work.
SWEAT was joined at the launch on Thursday by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and Sisonke (a sex-worker movement addressing injustices such as police harassment, abuse and unsafe working conditions). Sex workers and other community members were also present at the launch, where AHF’s country programme director was quoted as saying: ‘You need to be leaders… We need to hear your voice.’
The violence faced by sex workers in a country with a pervasive rape culture is further intensified by the criminalisation of sex work and the resulting corrupt SAPS practices. SWEAT and other sex-worker organisations have been mobilising to decriminalise sex work, while pushing for law reform. However, the recently released and long-awaited SALRC report indicated the continued criminalisation of sex work, which will see a continued increase in HIV among sex workers and continued police corruption, and will cost the lives of more sex workers. As sex work remains illegal in South Africa, sex workers are highly vulnerable to abuse, assault and murder. Most sex-worker murders will never reach the media as this segment of our population is largely dismissed by the justice system.