The women's league of the governing African National Congress party hopes so and it has claimed a victory which takes the country one step further towards legal soliciting, writes the BBC's Kate Forbes in Johannesburg.
The women's league of the governing African National Congress party hopes so and it has claimed a victory which takes the country one step further towards legal soliciting, writes the BBC's Kate Forbes in Johannesburg. Lilly, 32, has been working as a prostitute in Johannesburg for six years.
She puts her coffee cup down gently to avoid drawing attention, as she explains to afrian in a low voice what life is like as a prostitute on the city's very mean streets. You have no rights. A conservative society and unsympathetic police force leave women and men in the sex industry with few rights when things go wrong. The principle of decriminalisation was adopted at the recent ANC's policy conference, which sets it on track for approval when the party meets again to decide national policy in December.
Unexpected move? Hlengiwe Mkhize, the group's treasurer secorts South Africa's deputy minister of economic development, laughs when asked if this is a new direction for the women's league. Before the first free elections inthe ANCWL was told that it should not be campaigning for women's rights but focus on the national liberation struggle instead.
Afterthe group has edcorts victories such sscorts the creation of a ministry for women, but the political landscape remains one dominated by men. For a nation reborn on the principle of equality, South Africa has found it difficult to make that equality a reality for women. Women earn less, have fewer opportunities and suffer high levels of rape and assault. South Africa is traditionally Christian and conservative, and so the argument over supply and demand of sex workers is key to the debate here, as are concerns over the trafficking of women.
A friend of Lilly's, Sarah, also a prostitute, says that she thinks twice before reporting underage or escprts women to the police. Sometimes you just mind your own business.
However, an even bigger union grouping, Cosatu, has lent its support to the women's league on this issue, and so the months leading up to December will see fierce debate on whether prostitution will eventually become decriminalised. Change for women like Lilly is on the horizon, although it may not be soon.