No prosecution of prostitutes in KZN’s courts

2014-05-08 00:00

KZN’S courts are no longer prosecuting sex workers for prostitution.

While residents of Durban and Pietermaritzburg continue to fume over the rampant sex trade going on in their suburbs, The Witness has established that admission of guilt fines are the maximum penalty facing sex workers, with the main focus of authorities shifting to brothel-keeping and human trafficking.

Asked for statistics on the number of prosecutions in the past three years for “soliciting” or “loitering for the purposes of prostitution”, Natasha Ramkisson-Kara, spokesperson for the KZN Directorate of Public Prosecutions, replied: “According to our records we hardly ever see such cases.

“The one matter before court at present involves prostitution but not prostitution per se. Rather it falls under the auspices of human trafficking where women are forced into prostitution against their will,” she said.

She was referring to a trial in the Durban regional court in which five people — Sandile Zweni, Nduduzo Dlamini, Bhabha Dubazani and Dr Genchen Rugnath and his wife Ravina — are charged with running a brothel.

As many as 22 women and underage girls were allegedly recruited to work in the brothel run from the Inn Town Lodge owned by the Rugnaths.

Informed sources in the courts and SA police confirmed that individual sex workers, and their clients, are no longer being charged in courts.

Residents in Durban and Pietermaritzburg have been irked recently by the rampant sex trade that seems to be flourishing under the noses of the authorities.

Meanwhile, sex workers themselves believe they have a right to earn a living.

“We want our work to be seen as work and to be protected by labour laws just like any other job,” says the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) on its website.

Sweat was one of the parties involved in a case before the Constitutional Court in 2002, which sources say signalled a change in attitude towards the prosecution of sex workers with more sympathy accorded the plight of individual prostitutes.

A Pretoria brothel owner, Ellen Jordan, brothel employee Louisa Broodryk, and a sex worker, Christine Jacobs, challenged the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act (of 1957), which criminalises “sex for reward” and brothel keeping. They ultimately lost the case. The trio were convicted after a policeman entered Jordan’s brothel, paid R250 to Broodryk and thereafter received a pelvic massage from Jacobs.

Police sources, speaking on condition of anony­mity, said in past years members of the now defunct SA Narcotics Bureau were tasked with arresting prostitutes who faced charges of “loitering for prostitution purposes” or “soliciting”.

Their “clients” were also liable to be charged.

Recently the trend was for police to merely issue admission of guilt fines.

In 2010, The Witness reported on a “spring clean-up” of the CBD, which resulted in 50 women being arrested for prostitution.

Police reported at the time that the women who were arrested for “ loitering with purposes of solicitation” were fined R100 each and released.

Residents in Manor in Pietermaritzburg complained to The Witness last month about the rampant prostitution “nuisance” in their neighbourhood.

Sex workers reportedly ply their trade on a 24-hour basis in bed and breakfasts offering hourly rates, or even under the trees on the sports fields. The streets — and private gardens — are littered with condoms.

A police source, who worked undercover in that area, confirmed that prostitution is rife with customers “pulling up in cars” at all hours of the day and night.

A website “exposing prostitution in Pietermaritzburg” pictures several residences throughout the city, including Mayor’s Walk, Adams Road, Prince Alfred Street, Woodhouse Road and May Street, which they allege operate as brothels.

“The going rate for an hour with a sex worker at a venue is around R300 to R400. So-called high-class escorts such as Erin from Durban charge R600 per hour,” the website states.

The issue of an increase in prostitution, mainly in bed and breakfast establishments, in Umbilo and Glenwood in Durban was also raised during community meetings in those areas recently.

Kholi Buthelezi, who is based at the Sweat head office in the Cape, said in reply to a query from The Witness, the organisation does not control “how” sex workers do business but tries its best to educate them about hygiene and to keep the country clean.

She said police do often use municipal bylaws to arrest sex workers who are generally charged with loitering or public nuisance. Fines can range from R500 to R1 500.

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