Sexual favours for a price. On the side of the road. Down an alley. In your car. In your hotel room. In your house. On the corner. Wherever it is, it’s likely to be unsafe for the sex worker. Why? You might refuse to use condoms and risk exposing him or her to sexually transmitted infections and HIV/Aids. You might have bondage fantasies that leave him or her at your will and unable to escape. You might not be alone and you might rape her or him. Why else is it unsafe?
Well if you the sex work abuser have had no respect for his or her rights, why should the police? A sex worker is likely to get harassed daily for trying to do a job that happens in all countries around the world. They are doing their job without the support of a union. Without a company medical aid. Without financial security. You the client are allowing this to continue. You the client are not protecting the person who helps you to fulfil your sexual needs.
Why else? Well if the sex worker has little protection from you or the police, they are likely to seek protection out there. Pimps exploit the workers for most of their earnings in order to offer them an ill-fitting sense of security. They often require their own sexual favours in return for the protection. It is a cycle where a sex worker cannot do an honest day’s work without being exploited.
What is it that prevents us from going to the streets in support of these women and men who provide a service to many members of our rainbow nation? It can only be a retrogressive sense of moral superiority that leaves us thinking that what they do is “dirty” or “immoral”. Those words have grown old and irrelevant in a country that in theory is so supportive of diversity and respects people of whatever creed, religion and sexuality they may be. Are we clinging to a backward sense of morals? Sex happens. Why shouldn’t it happen with a sex worker?
The provision of increased rights to sex workers will protect them. It will make them more able to offer a rate that will allow them to support themselves financially and live comfortably. It will allow them access to a union, which will protect their rights when they are exploited by clients and pimps. It will make them more able, or at least more likely, to visit the police without fear when they are raped, beaten and abused.
The soccer World Cup approaches and we should be thinking more about sex workers. This will be a busy time for them, but will it be a safe time? If we don’t give them these rights we are condoning the abuse of men and women by omission. It is time for sex work to be legalised.