A growing number of school pupils are engaging in the sex trade and the legalisation of the world’s oldest profession will curb underage girls from becoming prostitutes.
This is the view of delegates at a recent sex work symposium that was organised by the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Durban.
Nonkanyiso Msane of Stanger in the north coast, who has worked as a sex worker for five years, said she was forced by circumstances into the trade, noting that she struggled to find a job after graduating with a diploma in analytical chemistry.
“I was 23 when I became a sex worker and now I’m 28 years of age. Over the years, I’ve seen a new trend where school learners who are underage work as prostitutes on weekends and go back to school on Monday.
“This is very harmful for them because they are vulnerable and they don’t understand the streets. They are also taken advantage of by older men. Some eventually quit school.”
She said some school pupils advertise their services on social media and invite their peers on the pretext that it is easy money.
“Some underage girls would leave Durban for a weekend to meet their customers as far as Cape Town and engage in the so-called sex parties with older men.
“Parents wouldn’t notice because they would often say they are visiting friends in a local area. Decriminalisation would protect these young girls and assist in ensuring that only adults are permitted to engage in sex work.”
KwaZulu-Natal is estimated to have more than 30 000 sex workers with Durban accounting for the highest number of prostitutes.
Councillor Ntokozo Sibiya-Xaba, eThekwini municipality chairperson of ethics committee, said she hopes other provinces will follow suit and join in to dismantle the stigma against sex work.
“Government must take the lead in resuscitating the decriminalisation discussion. We can’t shy away from the fact that sex work is a reality. Decriminalisation will also stop the smuggling of young women into the sex industry,” said Sibiya-Xaba.
Constance Mathe of Asijiki, an advocacy group leading efforts of decriminalising the sex industry, told delegates that some police officers have resorted to harshest methods against sex workers.
“In Mpumalanga province for instance, some girls informed us that police officers ordered them to take their underwear off. They were then shot on their private parts with rubber bullets,” said Mathe.
“The police officers told them that the act was to ensure that they refrain from prostituting themselves again.”
The Commission for Gender Equality also weighed in, saying the Chapter 9 institution backs calls to repel all laws against sex work. It said the organisation has already had dialogues with trade union federation Cosatu on the matter.
The proposals deliberated will be tabled to the provincial legislature for MPLs to discuss before KwaZulu-Natal engages other provinces about the matter.
Proponents of the move also say if the sex trade could be legalised, government will benefit substantially in tax collections.
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