Liesl Hattingh GARDEN ROUTE CORRESPONDENT
A GROUND-BREAKING study on sex work and human trafficking in Cape Town, authored by Chandré Gould, of Hoekwil near George, was launched last night with a critical thinking forum that aims to encourage legalisation of the industry.
The two-year study, entitled Selling Sex in Cape Town: Sex work and trafficking in a South African City, is the first of its size and kind in the country, and the first in Africa to gather quantitative data on human trafficking.
Researchers say it provides a model for much- needed similar studies in other South African cities.
Gould‘s studies found that most sex workers are young black women between the ages of 24 and 28, only five per cent are foreigners, and there is no evidence of human trafficking.
The Cape Town industry, with 1200 workers, of which 250 worked the streets, was fairly small, Gould said, and would probably remain that way if it was legalised due to the stigma attached to the industry.
“The kind of help sex workers need is protection by the law,” said Gould, a senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria. “It‘s too easy to see women in the industry as victims … opting for sex work is not easy but sometimes people‘s choices are limited,” she said.
“There will always be women who choose to do this, so let‘s make sure they‘re safe doing it.”
This could only be done in a regulated environment where workers, employers and clients were encouraged to report abuse, said Gould and co-author Nicolé Fick, of the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat).
Last night‘s launch at The Castle in Cape Town featured a critical thinking forum hosted by the Mail &0×0026; Guardian and chaired by constitutional law expert and High Court judge Dennis Davis.
“There will never be a good time to discuss this as it will always be a contentious issue. But it‘s important to protect the rights of women who are currently vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” Gould said.
The study found evidence of employment practices in brothels that would be unacceptable in regulated industries, including taking 36% to 60% of earnings, heavy fines for late arrival or not reporting for work according to strict timetables despite being in effect freelance.
Sex workers on the streets were often harassed and threatened by police.
“Rather than reducing the number of sex workers, an aggressive policing strategy results in women working longer hours or taking more clients to make up the income lost through paying fines or spending time in jail,” the report says.
Gould‘s next study will focus on violent repeat offenders.