WATCH | 'It's not something I ever wanted to become' - former prostitute supports call to criminalise buying sex

2019-08-27 17:18
Nompumelelo Limekhaya. (Lerato Sejake/News24)

Nompumelelo Limekhaya. (Lerato Sejake/News24)

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Nompumelelo Limekhaya was in Grade 12 when she was first introduced to prostitution.

Her mother was unemployed and her older brother, the sole breadwinner, had died in a car accident.

"I couldn't watch the suffering and the poverty that we were going through, so I intervened," she told News24.

She said an older woman in her neighbourhood, Gugulethu, told her about a man who was looking for a young girl.

"I was scared and ashamed because I didn't know what it's like or what I was supposed to do… but I didn't have a choice. I had to do what I had to do so that I may provide," she said.

"We never had the opportunity to choose. We were taking something in front of us."

Limekhaya worked on the streets on and off for 12 years and said that on most days, she feared for her life.

"I was fearing that I will go one day and not come back. My life was not guaranteed," she said.

In 2017, she was introduced to Kwanele, a movement of survivors of prostitution that worked with the organisation, Embrace Dignity.

The organisation is advocating to change legislation and introduce what they have dubbed the equality law.

The law, which is known as the "Nordic model" across Europe, criminalises buying sex and protects those exploited for prostitution.

Founder and executive director of Embrace Dignity, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, said the model looked at the underlying cause that leads women to the sex trade.

"Many of them do it because of circumstances, either early childhood sexual violence, unemployment and poverty," she said.

"The idea is not to allow prostitution to prosper because we see it as violence against women and that is why we target the demand."

Embrace Dignity helps women who want to exit the system to transition to formal work environments by offering counselling and skills development.

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