Lobbying: The art of the possible? Oxfam ‘Voices’ Learning Event Ballito, KZN 15 November 2012
Who we are…• SWEAT- Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce is an NGO whose main job is to promote sex worker human rights and advocate for their health, and achieve decriminalisation of sex work.• Made up of sex workers and sex worker activists• Operating for the last 17 years, now with a presence in seven out of nine provinces, headquartered in Cape Town.• In 2003 SWEAT gave birth to Sisonke- the only national sex worker movement in South Africa.• Sisonke is for sex workers, and by sex workers.
Nothing about us, without us!• In September 2011 SWEAT and Sisonke embarked on an awareness programme among sex workers.• The aim of the programme is to empower sex workers to be able to lobby and advocate for their rights.• The programme was put together by Tim Barnett, a former New Zealand Minister of Parliament, who was instrumental in getting sex work decriminalised in his country in 2003.
Lobbying Parliamentarians• The training programme explained power distribution amongst governmental structures, the processes of getting Bills passed, how new laws are made/changed, and how to lobby Parliamentarians.• Since their initial training by Barnett in 2011 the sex worker lobbyists have embarked on an intensive and widespread Parliamentary lobbying process, essentially attempting to address as many Members of Parliament (MPs) as possible, face to face, with the key messages on sex work decriminalisation.
Lobbying extended• Each lobbying team has 4 members, and are accompanied by at least 1 SWEAT staff member to meetings.• We currently have 16 active sex worker lobbyists based in Cape Town.• To date 18 MPs have been lobbied on a one-one basis, with the key messages on sex work decriminalisation. .• We have recently started lobbying local community leaders (ie. ward councillors), religious leaders, and international human rights’ bodies (ie. UNAIDS).
Deputy Minister of Police Maggie Makhotso Sotyu visits SWEAT• As the direct result of meeting with one of the lobbying teams SWEAT was visited by Deputy Minister of Police Maggie Makhotso Sotyu on the 13th of August 2012.• Speaking to Sisonke members Sotyu heard first-hand from sex workers themselves of the atrocious human right violations they experienced at the hands of police.• Sotyu pledged to bring an end to these violations, and hold those police officers that abused their power over sex workers to book.
Submission towards the Prevention of Torture Bill• We also made a joint submission with the Women’s Legal Centre and Sisonke towards the Prevention And Combating of Torture of Persons Bill, and presented our comments to the Bill at a public hearing on the 14th of August. Our presentation was covered by Eyewitness News: Torture Bill should protect sex workers.• An extract from the article reads: “The [Women’s Legal ] centres Stacey-Leigh Manoek said current laws do not adequately protect sex workers. “They experience these kinds of abuses because of the nature of their work. It’s hard to enforce the Sexual Offences Act as it stands, so police resort to illegal policing practices.”• WLC recently published a report titled: “Stop Harassing Us! Tackle Real Crime: A report on Human Rights Violations By Police Against Sex Workers In South Africa”.• Of the 308 sex workers interviewed for this study, 70 % had experienced some form of abuse at the hands of police.• The abuse ranged from harassment, assault, being pepper sprayed (at times on genitals), and rape.
Addressing the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus• The lobbyists also presented in front of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus in parliament on the 19th of September 2012.• This presentation was also covered by the media- this time by the Cape Times: Eyes opened to rights in sex trade.
• Part of the article reads: …continued “ANC MP Pam Tshwete said: “As lawmakers, we need to know about your concerns and monitor them. It is clear police, society and health-care professionals must be trained to deal with sex workers ”.• Other MPs agreed, saying it was important that sex workers’ rights were protected from any abuse.• Women’s Caucus chairwoman Beauty Dlulane said the presentation by Sweat was an “eye-opener”: “The constitution ensures human rights for all. We now know what issues they face, because we did not want to critisise them without hearing from them,” Dlulane said.• Dlulane closed the meeting by asking all present MPs to discuss sex workers’ issues with their party caucuses and have further discussions with SWEAT.• For a transcript and audio recording of this meeting please visit the following link on the Parliamentary Monitoring Group website: http://www.pmg.org.za/report/20120919-sweat-sexworkers- discussions-and-way-forward.
COSATU passes a resolution in support of decriminalisation of sex work• At the Congress Of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) 11th National Congress in September this year a resolution was passed in support of decriminalisation: “… 18. The continued criminalization of sex work has a discriminatory element as only women are charged and not their clients who solicit their services. … 25. To campaign for the decriminalisation of sex work through the repealing of the Sexual Offences Act, as part of a broader campaign of ensuring their enjoyment of labour, human, health [and] safety and socio economic rights. As well as to support organisations like Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and SISONKE (organisation for sex workers) in their efforts to educate and organise sex workers”.
…continued• We have since extended our lobbying campaign to other union affiliates of COSATU, such as the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), and National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) who are now open to discussions with us over decriminalisation of sex work, following COSATU’s resolution.
Tips and lessons learned• The success of this decriminalisation lobbying campaign has been the direct involvement of sex workers themselves. It is important for MPs to hear from sex workers about the challenges they face under criminalisation, and why Sisonke is calling for the decriminalisation of sex work. The lobbying is therefore more authentic and has a greater impact on the MPs.• The use of true/real-life storytelling has been a powerful tool in our lobbying. By weaving a real-life story to support your arguments when lobbying can leave a strong impression, which would hopefully inspire them to take action on the matter raised. If you want people to take action you need to speak to their emotions.• It is important to find research to support your arguments. When lobbying you need to know your facts, and be able to speak to evidence.• For the sex worker activists this has been an empowering programme, because it allows them to speak for themselves. Meeting with MPs has improved their knowledge of government processes, debate and presentation skills, and boosted their public speaking confidence.
Thank you• Presentation by- Kholi Buthelezi, Sisonke National Coordinator- Ntokozo Yingwana, SWEAT Advocacy OfficerAddress: 19 Anson Street, Observatory, Cape TownTel: (021) 448 78 75Fax: (021) 448 78 57Toll-free Helpline: 0800 60 60 60Email: email@example.comWebsite: www.sweat.org.zaLet us carry on the chance of today, by implementing for tomorrow.