Sex worker organizations in South Africa have engaged in significant advocacy to eliminate the current laws that criminalize the sale of sexual services there. Advocates argue that criminalization stigmatizes sex workers by labeling their conduct as unlawful, pushing them further to the margins of society, and making it difficult for sex workers to access health and welfare services. They claim that removing the threat of imminent arrest and caging would improve the material conditions under which sex workers live. But South Africa is a nation that struggles with income inequality, and many people live in poverty. There is xenophobia. There is social inequality. There is sexism. Decriminalization of sex work would not eliminate all these systemic problems. However, it might be a necessary first step for sex workers to live in a material world where they feel safer and in better control of their lives: a world where they are free to imagine a better future for themselves without the threat of state confinement for their labor choices.

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