Prostituting prostitutes

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Basic education minister Angie Motshekga needs a basic education. The minister,speaking as a ruling party womens’ league bigwig says some 40 000 prostitutes “are being recruited” to come to South Africa’s soccer World Cup, due to kick-off in June.

It is not clear where the number comes from, but it is so fantastic – at about one tenth of the 450 000 visitors some expect to visit, as to be worthy of great circumspection.

It appears she got the figure from the front page of The Star newspaper, a Johannesburg daily, that in turn quoted the deputy chairman of South Africa’s Central Drug Authority (CDA), a University of the Witwatersrand pharmacotherapist. The CDA is an agency of the Department of Social Development, not the police, and provides advice to the department on drug and substance abuse.

The Star and other Independent Group newspapers reported David Bayever as saying “40 000 new prostitutes. As if we do not have enough people of our own, we have to import them to ensure our visitors are entertained.” He was speaking at the local release of the International Narcotics Control Board’ annual report in Pretoria last week.

Stating that it is believed many of those women would be arriving from Eastern Europe, Bayever said too that as school holidays were being extended while the World Cup is taking place he was concerned that children, especially from poor rural families and possibly controlled through drugs and/or alcohol, could be at risk from those who want them to work as prostitutes. “Our youth are going to be on holiday. They are going to be targeted to become prostitutes..”

Bayever said the CDA had been warned by the Durban municipality of the possibility of huge inflows. “Someone informed the Durban municipality. They got wind of it,” he said.

Other than the sheer scale of the inflow Bayever expects – one out of at least every ten visitors – another cause for suspicion is that the number, 40 000, is the same advertised by many nongovernmental organisations ahead of the 2006 soccer World Cup in Germany. These told frightful tales that tens of thousands of women would be trafficked into central Europe “to serve the sexual desires of football fans.” Coincidentally, the bulk was then also expected from Eastern Europe.

Johan Kruger, the national project co-ordinator for trafficking at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, refrained from endorsing the estimate of 40 000 women entering the country, the Independent newspapers also reported. “I’m not sure where that comes from,” he said. He added that during the World Cup in Germany, many had expected human trafficking to increase.
“It actually decreased because of the preparation of law enforcement,” said Kruger.

Indeed, the UN`s International Organisation for Migration in 2007 condemned the “dire predictions” made by the NGOs. The Associated Press reported on May 8 2007 that the European Union, the United States and the Vatican had all put pressure on Germany for supposedly not doing enough to stop the expected tide. In the end, just five people were confirmed as having been trafficked into Germany for forced prostitution over the World Cup period. The estimate of 40 000 women expected to be trafficked was unfounded and unrealistic,” the 48-page IOM report said.

Another appeal for authorities not to overstate the problem of human trafficking came from Eric Harper, director of the non-profit Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT). The Digitaljournal reports he was unhappy about a video clip being shown in SA titled “Stop 2010 Human Trafficking” in which it is claimed that there are already 100 000 sex workers in South Africa, that 100 000 people will be trafficked in SA prior to the World Cup and that legalising prostitution – illegal in SA – increases the problem of trafficking. Asserting that none of those claims could be substantiated, Harper commented that counter-trafficking “campaigns are important. Sex slavery is a form of torture with extremely damaging effects and must be stopped, but the extent and reach of trafficking should not be overestimated.”

Indeed, in the case of Germany, soccer fans turned out to be more interested in soccer than sex. Prostitution is legal in Germany and brothels reported a fall-off in business during the tournament.



In its 2007 report the IOM added “more accountability was needed among rights groups and media when citing figures, so that no one could be accused of organising a scare campaign while highlighting the serious dangers in human trafficking.” If it sounds to good to be true it probably is. Don’ believe everything you read. Enough said.