B&Bs proliferate in Glenwood ‘as a result of local sex traders’

2014-03-20 00:00

THE increase of bed and breakfast establishments in the Umbilo and Glenwood areas was as a direct result of the increase in prostitution.

Ben Madokwe, chairperson of the Umbilo CPF, told this to a gathering of residents, councillors, city officials and an organisation representing sex workers at a meeting in Glenwood this week.

Madokwe called on the city to check the licences of these to gauge the real modus operandi behind their establishment.

He warned that Baxter Park had been “hijacked by sex workers” and that children were being exposed to sex workers “lifting their skirts” to “impress” their clients.

The Glenwood meeting clearly showed there were two camps among residents — those that want them thrown out of the area entirely and those that want to find solutions that will address the underlying causes of prostitution. These two views came into sometimes dramatic contrast at a meeting in Glenwood on Tuesday evening.

The meeting was held under the title “Addressing sex work in Umbilo/Glenwood — a joint intervention by the Commission for Gender Equality, Sisonke Sex Workers’ Movement and the Umbilo Community Policing Forum” and was held at the Glenwood High School.

The meeting was mediated by external facilitator Hilda Grobler. She said it was accepted there were “strong perceptions” concerning the issue and asked that these not be debated. She listed these issues as “prostitution is illegal, that parents are concerned about their children being exposed to the methods employed by sex workers to attract clients; that there is “human waste” in local parks and streets; that there is a rise in crime and that sex workers bring drugs and drug lords into the area.

She said that some people had allegedly responded to sex workers in the area by assaulting them. “That is a criminal act.”

Grobler said the meeting needed to find a solution and an intervention strategy and that should be informed by two questions “is it an issue of prostitution or is it the causes of prostitution that cause the problem?”

Thuli Khoza, spokesperson for the Sisonke Sex Workers’ Movement, said sex workers in the area had experienced rape and abuse “by clients, pimps and community members”.

“If sex is recognised as work, human rights are assured,” she said. “We are also residents in the area; we are also mothers and grandmothers. Please listen to us. We also face crime everyday.”

Providing the perspective of the local community DA ward councillor Nicole Graham said that sex workers were the “biggest problem” she had had to deal with since becoming councillor in 2013. She acknowledged the adverse affect it was having on the area and the community but said that abuse of sex workers was unacceptable.

In opening the debate to the floor Grobler said that although the law might change “what do we do in the interim?”

Responding deputy city manager for community and emergency services Musa Gumede acknowledged there were “challenges” and the city was not “unaware of the issues and sitting back”.

Gumede said that he was aware there was “an over supply of licences” and that matter was being investigated. He said the city had been involved in litigation regarding unlicensed business but that it took around two years for a case to move through the justice system.

Heather Rorick of the Bulwer Community Safety Forum called for co-operation with NGOs such as Sisonke and Lifeline.

“We patrol the area at night and we find women on the pavements bleeding from back street abortions. But who do we call?” She said social workers are not available after hours. “We can’t get anyone to help us after hours — work with us, not against us.

In closing the meeting, Madokwe acknowledged there would be no “quick fix” but that there should be some change in the situation within six months to a year. It was indicated that there would be a follow up meeting at an unspecified date at which municipal officials and the SAPS would report back on progress.

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