In anticipation of the World Cup, the Cape Town Police’s vice squad started counting prostitutes in selected neighbourhoods at the beginning of the year. It found 203. Two months later, the number had ballooned to 300. And that’s just a foretaste of the tens of thousands of new prostitutes expected in South Africa for the big sports event this summer.
“It’s common logic to understand that as we approach the World Cup, prostitution will increase,” Cape Town police spokesman Neil Arendse tells Metro. “That’s why we’re intensifying our efforts to find the prostitutes.”
According to Errol Vandoo, head of the Family Policy Institute in Cape Town, local and international organizations are now recruiting South African women into prostitution. “In addition, women who otherwise wouldn’t have considered prostitution getting involved with it because it’s easy money, not because they’re desperate,” said Vandoo. According to a new report by South Africa’s Central Drug Authority, an additional 40,000 prostitutes are expected before and during the World Cup.
According to police, most of them come from rural parts of the country. “We’re also getting more women from neighboring countries and Eastern Europe, who often don’t speak English. And Chinese women in particular are arriving here without papers or with the wrong papers,” notes Cape Town City Councillor JP Smith. “The other day we found a Chinese prostitute whose visa said she was here to give boxing lessons.” For many women, this is their debut in the sex business.
Erika (who doesn’t want her last name published) will be walking the streets during the World Cup, too — but not to find customers. The ex-prostitute, who was raped by her stepfather at age four and sold into prostitution by her mother eight years later, will be trying to convince fellow prostitutes to quit. “They’re so hungry for love and acceptance,” says Erika. “But of course, the money makes it very hard to quit.”
In anticipation of the prostitution boom, South Africa’s police chief and several politicians proposed legalizing it. George Lekgetho, an ANC parliamentarian, suggested that legalizing prostitution would reduce rape and increase tax revenue. The bill was rejected.
Cape Town has taken the opposite approach, trying to clear the city of prostitutes.
“The pro-prostitution lobby pretends it’s a Pretty Woman world, but this is an ugly business,” explains City Councillor Smith, the man behind the initiative. “If we do nothing, when the World Cup ends and leaves happy memories, we’ll be stuck with all these prostitutes, drugs and organized crime.”