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Welcome to the Johannesburg CBD where money is what sustains many livelihoods and the nature of sex work is both implied and explicit. For many, sex work might be regarded as a morally degrading activity in society but for some of the men and women involved in this business trade, agency is what regulates their services.
Lindiwe says she had always dreamt of owning the pair of shoes and a friend of hers recommended sex work. The young woman laughs as she explains how she gave into peer pressure, thinking that would be her last time working as a sex worker. Lindiwe is one of many men and women who are fighting for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa as they believe that their work is just like any other occupation.
Sisonke Media Liaison Officer Katlego Rasebitse says sex workers want to be law-abiding citizens, but the laws in the country make it difficult for them. Lindiwe says sex work is her choice of work and she wishes that people would respect this choice and not pity her. Prostitutes settle for anything given in exchange for sex because they are desperate.
Lindiwe says she is married and her husband is a former regular client. Her small eyes get bigger as she beams over how he approached the marriage subject. The story of sex work is the same but the people in the field are all different, says Primrose who is a year-old mother of four children aged between 23 and 10 years old. Primrose was born and raised in Zimbabwe but moved to South Africa in Primrose used to work as a housekeeper at a hotel in the area before deciding to get into sex work.
The flamboyant mother boasts about her rights as a sex worker, saying she is more than just a sex worker now as she is a peer educator to other workers. Primrose says most of the sex workers she knows have been harassed by nurses in clinics. Mpho Ramashala who is a counsellor that has worked with some sex workers at the Hillbrow Clinic says that she sees many types of workers but their frustration as health caregivers comes when some workers are not honest about what they do. Primrose says part of her job is to make sure that sex workers understand these medical processes and join focus groups which help many workers feel empowered.