Embrace Dignity is a South African feminist and abolitionist and human rights advocacy organisation. This means that we strive for the realisation of gender equality by directly challenging patriarchal and cultural gender norms that seek to oppress women and other marginalised bodies and deprive them of living a life of dignity. We want to abolish the system of prostitution by championing the human rights of prostituted people through our advocacy for the enactment of the Abolitionist Equality Law through our Law Reform Programme as well as through our Public Education and Exit programmes.
Our programmes are based on the Nordic or Abolition Model of human rights that addresses violence against women and gender equality. This model criminalises those who purchase sexual services and decriminalises those who are exploited for prostitution, but also offers prostituted people support to increase their options and to be able to choose to exit.
KWANELE (an isiXhosa word for Enough) is a newly established survivor-founded and -led movement of predominantly poor black women from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds who live in South Africa. The survivors do not recognise prostitution as work but rather as a means of survival when there were limited or no other options available to them. The movement calls for the abolition of the system of prostitution and is advocating for the adoption and enactment of the Abolitionist Equality Law in South Africa and Africa as a whole, which they regard as the only rational and comprehensive policy for addressing the harms and violence of the system of prostitution.
Prostituted women are saying KWANELE – enough is enough! They are saying that their suffering and pain must end with them. They do not want their children and other girls, women or marginalised people to go through what they go through. They were driven into prostitution by poverty, oppression, past sexual and physical abuse, and persistent gender inequalities. These systems of oppression and exploitation have left them more poor and full of scars – scars of years of abuse from buyers, pimps, brothel owners, the police, communities and the government that has abandoned them or rather chosen not to prioritise their issues. KWANELE survivors say they want jobs, real jobs, and jobs that do not infringe on their constitutional rights to dignity, equality and life. KWANELE is calling on bodies like the United Nations to hear their cries and to put pressure on the South African government to accelerate the process of law reform and adopt the Abolitionist Equality Model because they are dying young and poor.
The KWANELE survivor movement has a membership of 586 members countrywide and the organisation’s membership continues to grow rapidly as current KWANELE members mobilise other survivors in the sex trade. The membership is comprised of survivors of prostitution from KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
At present we empower prostituted women in the Western Cape through our Exit Programme. Our Exit Programme is comprised of referrals to our partner organisations like Vheneka (which empowers women with culinary and computer skills so that they can be independent and start their own businesses), Home of Hope and O Grace Land (who empower women by offering them a home to live, support them to complete their education and develop job and life skills).