JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African women’s rights groups and sex workers demonstrated outside a Johannesburg court on Tuesday as a 21-year-old man appeared in connection with the discovery of six decomposed bodies believed to be those of sex workers.
The man appeared in the dock with his face covered by a black cloth to hide his identity.
He was arrested last week when police discovered the bodies at a car repair workshop in downtown Johannesburg while investigating the disappearance of one sex worker who was allegedly last seen with the suspect.
According to the police, some of the bodies were found with their hands tied and they had evidently been in the building for a long period of time.
The man is expected to take part in an identity lineup on Friday. An initial lineup was abandoned when a police official assigned to conduct it was not available, according to prosecutors.
A group of sex workers attended the court case and jeered when the man entered the court, demanding that the cloth hiding his face be removed. Some of them hid their own identity as they are expected to be witnesses in the case.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said the victims’ families were yet to be informed as DNA tests were still being conducted.
“At this stage we don’t have any of the deceased persons that have been identified positively, that process is still ongoing,” she said.
The demonstrators brandished placards with slogans calling for the decriminalization of sex work and the protection of sex workers.
Nozipho Dlamini, who represents the Sisterhood Foundation that deals with women issues, said areas where sex workers operate should be made safer.
“As a community, we prefer that wherever they are, the streets and the properties where they stay need to be protected,” said Dlamini.
The suspect is expected to appear in court again on Oct. 25.