In a nutshell
The Positive Policing Partnership (the PPP) focuses on identifying advocacy opportunities to establish and support innovative civil society, policing and government collaborations to catalyse positive change in the operational policing experience of sex workers through dialogue, policy interventions and actions. Sonke Gender Justice and SWEAT (Sex Worker Education & Advocacy Taskforce) are the lead organizations for this intervention.
What we do
Background to the Positive Policing Partnership
Marginalised and stigmatised groups in society such as migrants, sex workers, homeless people and drug users are at particular risk of human rights violations during policing and security operations because of skewed power relations.
Sex worker rights and health organisations receive a high volume of complaints from sex workers regarding their experiences of human rights violations during operational policing. Sex workers and their advocacy organisations continue to face difficulties in resolving these issues successfully through existing police complaints and oversight processes.
Sonke Gender Justice and SWEAT (Sex Worker Education & Advocacy Taskforce) commissioned research into police practices in 2016. An interim Case Study Report, consolidating witness statements illustrating the operational policing challenges, was published by Sonke Gender Justice in July 2017. This served as a consultation tool to engage police, government and human rights experts on the issues in order to seek a constructive way forward.
On 2 August 2017 the sex work sector convened a meeting in Cape Town to strategise on new advocacy opportunities following the Interim Case Study Report. Questions considered by the group included:
- What is the scope of the problem of sex worker human rights violations by the police?
- Are there systemic trends?
- What actions could the sector take to more effectively engage with, and capacitate, police and government authorities to reduce the level of human rights violations against sex workers and their clients?
At this meeting, the sector resolved to form the “Positive Policing Partnership” (PPP) as a vehicle to drive solution-focused engagement on operational policing challenges, to improve the operational policing experience of sex workers and other marginalised groups.
The final research findings were released in March 2018 in a report entitled “The Policing of Sex Work in South Africa: A Research Report on the Human Rights Challenges Across Two South African Provinces”.
The PPP Approach
Through the PPP, the sex work sector generates and promotes opportunities for positive engagement with police, civil society and government actors on operational and strategic policing issues related to sex work in South Africa.
The PPP is engaged in establishing strategic working groups and partnerships across civil society and government to plan, deliver and catalyse strategic actions which deliver a measurable improvement in the relationships, capacities and experiences of service delivery to the sex work sector.
The PPP aims to reframe advocacy strategies and engagement activities with government and policing authorities. The PPP has adopted a positive and forward focused strategy, rather than an adversarial approach, to engaging with senior levels of government and the South African Police Services (SAPS). The strategy seeks to foster meaningful collaborative engagements and partnerships between civil society, policing and government entities.
The PPP also seeks to catalyse an understanding across society, government and policing groups of the human rights violations experienced by sex workers, through the publication and dissemination of evidence-based research which identifies challenges and recommends practical solutions to these challenges.
How we do it
The PPP activities include the following: research; consultations with and presentations to relevant stakeholders based on the research findings; collaboration amongst organizations working within the sex work sector; and publication of research findings.
The PPP identified the significant need to co-ordinate sex work sector policing initiatives and approaches. Consequently, a concept note was developed and adopted by the PPP at a meeting held on 24 January 2018. This document outlines a secretariat model to embed the PPP Secretariat within the sex work sector. The roles and activities of the PPP Secretariat include the following:
- Sharing information, knowledge and opportunities through the sector members;
- Co-ordinating and aligning national sex work sector activities with the PPP advocacy strategy, across government;
- Capacity building of sex work sector members so that members are able to more effectively engage with police and government across operational, policy and planning discussions.
The Secretariat role is currently managed by Sonke Gender Justice but SWEAT will be taking over the management of the PPP Secretariat by August 2018.
What we have achieved
- Research into the policing of the sex work sector.
- Release of the Interim Case Study Report on Policing & Sex Worker Challenges in July 2017.
- Findings from the interim report were used as a tool for extensive consultation with policing experts across government and civil society on the possible advocacy strategies and recommendations for a final report.
- Meetings with SAPS, which yielded promising dialogues on the draft SAPS ‘Standard Operating Procedure for the Policing of Sex Workers’ and other potential strategic actions.
- Engagement with government and policing authorities through high level presentations on sex worker and operational policing human rights challenges at: the South African Human Rights Commission and African Police Civilian Oversight Forum Dialogue on Policing in April 2017; the Advanced Human Rights Course for African Police, hosted by the University of Pretoria in August 2017; the South African Expert Panel on Policing in September 2017; and the International Women in Policing Conference, Cairns (Australia), September 2017.
- Submission to the Civilian Secretariat for Policing on the White Paper for Safety & Security in January 2018, outlining recommendations on the policing of sex work, sector and government engagement and oversight.
- Publication in March 2018, of the evidence-based research report “The Policing of Sex Work in South Africa: A Research Report on the Human Rights Challenges Across Two South African Provinces”.
- Launch of the Research report at an event hosted by the Institute of Security Studies in March 2018. The launch included a panel discussion on rights compliant policing as well as a stakeholder roundtable dialogue.
- Follow on activities from launch including presenting at the Gauteng Office of the Premier Commercial Sex Work Roundtable Dialogue, Johannesburg on 23 March 2018.
- Gauteng Department of Community Safety undertaking to host follow up roundtable discussion event flowing from the launch dialogue, to identify strategic partnerships and specific actions to address the policing and violence issues recorded in the research report.
What we have learned
- That reframing challenges can effectively reset relationships and help move them from adversarial to more co-operative interactions. Instead of focusing on what government is not delivering, the approach with this project is very much about identifying what the sex work sector advocacy organisations can do to inform, assist and capacitate government and police to deliver a different form of policing that is more in line with human rights and legal mandates.
- By directly linking the issues to gender-based violence and human rights, the project is able to cut through some of the stigma and cultural barriers, to assist this vulnerable population group.
- That lack of knowledge of government processes and access points, is a barrier to effective engagement. Particularly with a very protocol driven institution such as SAPS, considerable time and effort is required to build relationships and understand the language used in that environment in order to gain access and be effective.
- By releasing an interim version of the research report for consultation and input purposes, we were able to engage with policing and civil society organisations to identify different approaches, potential networks and opportunities to engage with. This consultation activity enabled a better understanding of whom to approach, how to frame the approach and significantly contributed to the strategy of capacitation rather than confrontation on the issues.
- Engaging a wider range of stakeholders can be extremely beneficial. By approaching and partnering with organisations outside the sex work sector i.e. the Institute of Security Studies, the project is able to leverage the ISS relationship with police and government to enable dialogues and greater understanding of the issues, thereby improving the possibility of achieving effective change. It also increases the project’s ability to engage in government processes through gaining a better understanding of them and guidance on access points/activities relevant to the project aims.
- That evidence-based research is a very powerful tool to engage government, when it can be linked to government responsibilities and deliverables.