Sex sells in tough times

2008-10-17 00:00

Hard economic times have not affected Durban’s sex trade — there are still men with the money to pay for sex. But more and more women are entering the business to survive.

Debbie Toughey, a former prostitute and public speaker on human trafficking and prostitution, said hard economic times do not stop men seeking sexual pleasure from sex workers.

“When it comes to prostitution, the circumstances don’t change much. There will always be a need for men to visit these women,” she said.

Toughey said that a lack of money does not stop sex addicts.

“They will find the money to satisfy their addiction. There will always be people who have money and this keeps these women on the street[s],” she said.

She said the “scary” cost of living is the reason that more women are selling their bodies in a desperate bid to survive.“There is danger here in that more and more women are coming to the city for work and fall into prostitution. So there are more ladies out there and sometimes not enough clients.”

The women are then forced to charge less and can’t demand that their client wears a condom.

“The bottom line is survival. They need the money, so they can’t make demands. This increases the chances of rape and contracting HIV.”

Some prostitutes can make up to R200 per client, but those on the streets sometimes settle for R50, half of which goes to their pimps.

The majority of their clients are well off or middle class, but ordinary working men also visit sex workers.

Many of the women get a raw deal as they have to pay protection money to their pimps and drug dealers prey on them.

“These women only see a small portion of the money. Most of it goes to their pimps, drug dealers and to agency owners. Human traffickers also get money,” she said.

Sex workers are also constantly harassed by police.“Many are charged for loitering. They are forced to pay the police or frequently do sexual favours to stop the harassment.”

Toughey is against the legalisation of prostitution and believes that it should not be mistaken for an acceptable form of employment.

She said the 2010 World Cup will bring a lot of tourists and there will be a big demand for sex workers, but the legalisation of prostitution would not have a positive outcome.

She said that many prostitutes call for alternatives instead of legalisation as many want to leave the profession. “Even in countries where it has been legalised, the majority of the prostitutes don’t want to be registered. Also, it’s untrue that working conditions improve when it is legalised.”

She said sex work is directly linked to human trafficking, which is a big problem in South Africa and more women and children would be “sucked” into the sex industry if it were legalised.

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