Sex Work Sensitisation Training Seminars

Sex Work Sensitisation Training Seminars

By Uzair Adams

The sex work sensitisation training seminars took place in collaboration between ProBono.Org and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), South Africa’s leading sex worker human rights organisation, providing services to sex workers since 1996. The organisation exclusively works with adult sex workers on issues of health and human rights. Its services include providing safer sex education, crisis counselling, legal advice and skills development for sex workers. SWEAT advocates for the protection, promotion and fulfilment of sex workers’ human rights through human rights defence and advocating for law reform for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa. In June 2017, SWEAT decided to register and open a law clinic in response to the outcry from sex workers for legal assistance in issues specific to them as a direct result of their profession.

These training seminars were therefore part of a series of workshops that were rolled out in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, with the aim of sensitising legal practitioners about sex work and the experiences of sex workers in order to broaden their perspectives and to encourage them to avail themselves when their skills and expertise are needed by this vulnerable group; as well as to assist people to understand why SWEAT is calling for the full decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa.

The Johannesburg training seminars took place at Bowman Gilfillan’s offices on the 9th and 10th of September; the Durban training seminar took place at Norton Rose Fulbright SA’s offices on the 18th September, and the Cape Town training seminar took place at Norton Rose Fulbright SA’s offices on the 8th October 2019.

The training workshops covered the following subjects:

  • Language of sex, gender, sexual orientation and sexual practice
  • The effects of stigma, prejudice and discrimination
  • Transactional sex
  • The legal framework and the four legal models for sex work: criminalisation, partial criminalisation, legalisation and decriminalisation
  • How to support sex workers’ rights
  • Values and attitudes to sex work
  • Profile of a sex worker
  • Reasons people enter sex work
  • Places where sex workers find clients
  • Other people that impact a sex worker’s life
  • Risks faced by sex workers and appropriate responses

Currently, criminalisation of sex work has been in place since 1957, with clients being specifically criminalised since 2007. This has resulted in high levels of violence, a lack of access to basic services including healthcare services and abuse of sex workers, including by police officers.

The decriminalisation of sex work would allow sex workers to function within a human rights framework, as it would entail the following:

  • the removal of criminal charges against sex workers;
  • the operation of brothels and individual sex workers as ordinary businesses;
  • the ability to implement laws protecting sex workers from special risks;
  • minimising discrimination and stigma around sex work, which will in turn enable sex workers to access basic services more easily; and
  • the potential reduction of abuse, together with increased reporting to
    the police.

The training seminars therefore provided a platform for interesting and robust dialogue around these issues. Participants raised many important questions, including the issue of consent and how consent is not always easy to define when a person’s circumstances limit their choices. Most of the participants seemed to fully understand the need for decriminalisation and were in support of it. They understood how it can create an environment where it is easier to protect the rights of sex workers as well as to ensure their safety.


Click here for our complete December 2019 Newsletter

Celebrating One of Our Own

By Muchengeti Hwacha, Johannesburg intern Pic Dakalo Singo

ProBono.Org would like to extend a congratulatory message to one of our partner attorneys, Dakalo Singo of Werksmans. He was featured in the Mail & Guardian’s annual list of eminent South Africans under the age of 35.

His work in representing refugees against the Minister of Labour resulted in a landmark Constitutional Court judgement, which affirmed the labour rights of this marginalised community. That judgment has become the catalyst for ProBono.Org, with support from the HCI Foundation, to develop a campaign and monitoring mechanism to ensure its effective enforcement.

Congratulations Dakalo, continue the good work.


Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

Children’s Project – training for legal practitioners

By Elsabe Steenhuisen


1. Short dialogues

This year our children’s project is conducting a series of eight two-hour dialogues in four Gauteng regions (Alberton, Roodepoort, Boksburg and Johannesburg) spread over the year. Their aim is to create a platform for recently admitted and young legal practitioners to engage with each other and with more experienced colleagues on various topics.

The first two dialogues (held on 28 March and 4 April) served to improve the practical skills of dealing with professional/client relationships – the conflict, the emotions, the relentless contact and insistence on feedback, the overload of information, the lack of co-operation and clear instructions. The third and fourth dialogues (held on 24 and 30 May) dealt with the lessons of practice we only learn the hard way. Attendees compared and shared their experiences with that of the speaker and their colleagues.

The fifth dialogue was held on 11 July at Klopper Jonker Attorneys in Alberton and dealt with appropriate billing practices, the difference between fees and disbursements, managing clients’ perceptions in respect of fees and clear communication with clients about fees. The speaker touched on overreaching, underreaching, deposits and fee estimations. This dialogue will be repeated on 29 August at Coetzee Attorneys in Roodepoort.

The last two sessions will be held on 16 August at Hogan Lovells, Sandton and on 23 August at Alice Swanepoel Attorneys, Boksburg. The speaker will open the discussion with reference to best practice in respect of the charging of professional fees and the levying of disbursements. He will conclude with ethical ways of dealing with advocates and with the courts.
ProBono.Org is indebted to Ramsden Small Attorneys that made Suné Bosch and Jonathan Small available to lead the dialogues for 2019, and to the firms for hosting the dialogues.

If you would like to attend the remaining dialogues, you are welcome to book your place with Phumi at Please note that space is limited.

2. Workshops in Children’s Court practice

The second of this series of workshops was held on 19 July hosted by our partners, Werksmans Attorneys.
Presenter and former magistrate Alice Swanepoel shared her years of experience in handling Children’s Court matters. The gathering was also an opportunity for the legal practitioners who had attended the first session to probe more deeply into the intricacies of representing children and their interests.

We were also honoured by a surprise guest speaker, Acting Judge Clute Swanepoel. His significant depth of knowledge and particular experience in the higher courts provided an additional layer of detail to the session.

These workshops highlighted the need for legal practitioners to discuss practical scenarios with each other and with experts on Children’s Court practice. Plans for 2020 workshops will focus on this aspect and we will call on legal practitioners to indicate which scenarios they would like to be discussed.

Our thanks for the contributions of the speakers and the host, and the participation of the attendees.


Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) – Diversity Training Programme for ProBono.Org and law firm affiliates

By Swazi Malinga

ProBono.Org identified the need to sensitise our staff on all aspects of sexual diversity and inclusivity. We engaged Enza, an accredited training provider specialising in gender diversity. The training was offered in three sessions spread over three months.

The programme aimed to sensitise legal practitioners who provide services to their LGBTI clients and focused specifically on the health and justice service needs of the LGBTI community, especially those targeted for hate crimes because of their sexual orientation or gender non-conformity. The intention was to stimulate dialogue by creating a space for shared learning and problem solving. Sensitising frontline legal workers improves access to treatment and care for vulnerable groups.

The training curriculum was made up of the following modules:

Module 1: Intersectionality
Module 2: Gender & Sexuality Sensitisation
Module 3: Understanding Health & Justice Needs
Module 4: Creating A Welcoming & Safe Environment
Module 5: Gender, Sexuality And The Law
Module 6: Understanding Hate Crimes
Module 7: Being Transgender


Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter