Poor, prostitutes removed from streets for World Cup

2010-05-18 08:04

Authorities in major World Cup host cities are rounding up

vagrants, street children and prostitutes in a campaign to spruce up the image

of urban areas.

In the last two months, police in Johannesburg swooped on mainly

Zimbabwean blind beggars who roam the busy streets and women who sit with babies

at road intersections – much to the anger of rights groups.

“Their presence violates the city bylaws and we arrest them. In

many cases those in need, like women with children and disabled people, are

referred to places of safety, where they can access welfare services,” said Edna

Mamonyane, spokesperson for the Johannesburg Metro Police.

“This is a normal police exercise, but we have intensified our

efforts because of the World Cup,” said Mamonyane.

“We have had a really tough job with the prostitutes, every day

they are warned or arrested,” she added.

The campaign has infuriated sex worker groups and street kid

advocates, who accuse the police on trampling on the rights of the downtrodden

by sending them to poorly serviced facilities.

“It’s a violation of our bill of rights... They’re not allowed to

do it. The legacy that it’s going to leave behind is that human rights were

violated in the process of trying to put on a world event,” said Warren

Whitfield, chief of Addiction Action Campaign, an advocacy group.

Street kids in Durban say that over the last two months police have

rounded them up and left them at a facility on the city’s outskirts.

“They tell us we must go back where we came from. They say Durban

is dirty because of us,” a 13-year-old boy told The Times.

More than 400 children live on Durban’s streets, and most of them

have been removed, according to child welfare groups.

Durban’s newly revamped beachfront promenade, which will be

transformed into a fan zone during the World Cup, has become unusually empty,

free of loiterers and illegal vendors.

Prostitutes had been flushed out of the popular harbour precinct,

dotted by chic restaurants and bars, dashing hopes of cashing in on the influx

of potential clients.

Sex workers had hoped for leniency during the World Cup, after some

government officials proposed legislation to legalise prostitution.

But the proposal was abandoned after fierce objections from

Christian groups and opposition parties.

The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task force (SWEAT) has

proposed distributing condoms and lubricants packaged with a football logo

during the tournament.

The Cape Town-based organisation also recommended that coasters be

printed with the message: “Don’t leave this bar without picking up a condom,” to

be placed in bars where matches will be screened.

SWEAT says the forced removals of prostitutes from popular spots

would not deter them from operating.

“We are expecting increased activity among sex workers during the

World Cup period. The prospect is chilling for a country that has the world’s

highest HIV and AIDS rate,” said the organisation.


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