Identifying the barriers sex workers experience to participate in public policy making

Mienies, Keith Adrian
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In South Africa, sex work is illegal, and sex workers have operated in the shadows for decades, although the profession has been around for centuries. Sex workers are marginalised and vulnerable which affects their power and authority to participate in public policy deliberations. Their ability to participate in community forums and public discussions about issues that affect them is limited mainly due to their lack of agency, social exclusion and stigma. Ultimately, their equality in the democracy they live is compromised due to social norms, cultural values and religion. This study investigated the barriers that sex workers face to participate in public policy making. This research was a basic interpretive qualitative study which was conducted in Johannesburg, South Africa. Data was collected using structured and semi structured tools through focus group discussions with active sex workers and key informant interviews with policy makers, academics and legal experts. The data was collected and analysed through an exploratory lens that allowed a story to unfold and used people’s experiences to shed light on what these barriers were. The results from the study concluded that sex workers are in fact socially excluded within the communities they live and this exclusion fuels internal and external stigma. This structurally decreases their human and social agency and systematically excludes their voices, human rights, legitimate policy needs and opinions from public policy making processes within their communities. In order to address this structural disadvantage, an advanced form of behaviour change of communities, policy makers and public service personnel is recommended.
Thesis submitted for fifty percent completion of the degree of Master of Management in the field of Public Policy at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. 28 March 2017
Mienies, Keith Adrian (2017) Identifying the barriers sex workers experience to participate in public policy making, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>