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Report: Context analysis and needs assessment to guide sensitisation training of police on appropriate services for key populations in South Africa


Context analysis and needs assessment to guide sensitisation training of police on appropriate services for key populations in South Africa: Project report.

Authors: Scheibe A & Müller A (2016). Amsterdam: COC Netherlands.

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The South African Constitution is built on principles that have resulted in great advances in safety, human rights and health for people in South Africa. However, the country has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, sex workers (SWs) and people who use drugs (PWUD) are at particularly high risk for HIV due to a combination of factors. Apart from some behaviours that may be associated with HIV risk, their well-being is threatened by limited access to appropriate health care as well as social marginalisation and exclusion. The criminalisation of sex work and drug use, as well as stigma and discrimination, contribute to their exclusion from society. This, in turn, increases their vulnerability to HIV and the likelihood of engaging with law enforcement. While key populations, as part of the larger community, rely on police to keep them safe, at times they also experience human rights violations by law enforcement officers. Rationale and objectives Policies, standing orders and national instructions inform, shape and govern the decisions, actions and performance of police. These policies can either facilitate or prevent effective and human rights-based HIV responses. Therefore, enhancing policies and actions that improve the safety and well-being of all people, including key populations and police, in line with the Constitution, is critical. Training that addresses knowledge gaps and existing attitudes within police can contribute to a more effective police service, while improving health and safety outcomes of all people.

This study sought to:

1. Describe relevant laws, mechanisms and practices that guide or are used to enforce laws influencing the rights and health of LGBT people, SWs, and PWUD

2. Summarise evidence of human rights violations (including violence) and actions taken to reduce rights violations among LGBT people, SWs, and PWUD

3. Develop a prioritised list of needs, and potential interventions to address these needs, for law enforcement agents to better support the rights and health of LGBT people, SWs, and PWUD

Key recommendations

• SAPS should create opportunities for knowledge sharing between police and other partners around the effectiveness of rights-based policing.
• SAPS should engage with stakeholders working with key populations to improve community understanding of human rights.
• Training around LGBT issues is needed to enable non-judgmental service provision by SAPS and effective investigation of crimes related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Training should cover: sexual orientation and gender identity; the proposed hate crime legislation; existing relevant legislation, and case law. Police should also strengthen their support for Hate Crime Provincial Task Teams.
• Training for police around sex work should clarify the status of sex work and the obligations of police under the 2007 Sexual Offences Act, relevant by-laws, SW rights, the decriminalisation debate, and topics around policing of sex work.
• Training for police on drug use should allow the sharing of knowledge and information around drugs (manufacturing, properties, affects, methods of use etc.), increasing drug use despite increased arrests, PWUD rights, and conviction rates.
• Training should include information around HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as viral hepatitis (transmission, prevention, treatment etc.).
• Training should take an integrated approach to address intersecting issues.
• Representatives from community police forums should be included in training around key population issues.
• Key populations training should be included as part of basic and in-service training
• Examples of other countries’ alternative policing strategies and approaches to drug policy, experiences working with SWs and managing gender diversity and sexual orientation, and the effectiveness thereof, should be included in local police training.
• Policing protocols, and ideally a National Instruction, should be developed to guide police around the management of marginalised people, including key populations
• SAPS should consider changing the classification of gender from a binary category to one the includes a spectrum of identities.
• SAPS should review the use of output measures (arrest and crime statistics) as a measure of impact (effectiveness of police to improve the safety and security of all).


Read the full report here

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