Policing of sex work in South Africa: The positive policing partnership approach



  • Donna Maree Evans RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2482-7830
  • Marlise L. Richter School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town and African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witswatersrand
  • Munyaradazi I. Katumba




All aspects of sex work are criminalized in South Africa. Due to their marginalized position in society, sex workers are often the target of police violence and human rights violations, all of which have far-reaching implications for public health. Existing complaint mechanisms and police oversight structures rarely ensure accountability for sex worker human rights violations. In 2016, various sex work sector stakeholders and allied civil society members partnered in a collaborative project to document the operational policing challenges and record a contemporary evidence base of sex worker rights violations by law enforcement. The findings demonstrated that violation of sex worker human rights is systemic, pervasive, and entrenched. The project approach helped catalyze a move away from more traditionally adversarial approaches, with
stakeholders from the South African sex work sector forming the Positive Policing Partnership (PPP) as an advocacy vehicle to drive positive, solution-focused engagement on the operational policing challenges. The PPP focuses on collaboration, innovative partnerships, and capacity building. Concurrently, the COC Netherlands Dignity, Diversity and Policing project has successfully embedded a rights-based police training curriculum in partnership with the South African Police Service (SAPS). These projects employ different strategies and frameworks to catalyze positive change and to support effective engagement between the sex work sector, law enforcement, and government. This article provides a snapshot of the formation, activities and progress of these projects to date, teamed with a summary of key strategies and learnings.


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How to Cite

Evans, D. M., Richter, M. L., & Katumba, M. I. (2019). Policing of sex work in South Africa: The positive policing partnership approach: [LEPH2019]. Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being, 4(4), 80–85. https://doi.org/10.35502/jcswb.107



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