Peter van der Merwe
Peter van der Merwe

The cost of scoring in 2010

When millions of football fans descend on South Africa in mid-2010, it’s not just the country’s tourism industry that will be welcoming them with open arms. Never slow to miss a trick, practitioners of the world’s oldest profession will be bracing themselves for the inevitable flurry of scoring that goes with an event like the World Cup.

As we speak, hookers across the country are practicing how to say “Hello, Sailor” in seven different languages as they prepare welcome hordes of red-blooded boykies armed with fistfuls of euros, dollars and pounds.

Whether they’ll be doing so legally or not is a matter of mass debate at this stage. By all accounts, the South African government is considering decriminalising prostitution for the duration of the event. It’s not quite clear whether they’re hoping for a slice of the revenue, wanting to be as hospitable as possible or simply being downright practical.

On the face of it, it’s largely irrelevant whether Big Brother approves or not. For one, our ladies of the night are licking their lips for a little windfall, regardless of whether it’s legal. And by the same token, your average footie fan is hardly likely to pay too much heed to quaint local customs after a dozen pints of beer and watching his team bang in a couple against stern opposition. Action is what he will want, and bloody hell, action is what he is going to get.

If government goes ahead with the proposal to loose the dogs of whore, it could have severe consequences. For one thing, it’s going to result in a lot of grumpy cops. If prostitution is legal, they can’t very well demand a free roll in the hay in exchange for turning a blind eye. The prospect of having to pay for it, like every other Tom, Dick and Harry, won’t go down well with our boys in blue.

But the seeming frivolity of the situation masks a deeper issue. Many advocacy groups have long maintained that all sex workers should be able to ply their trade without the constant police harassment and discrimination that comes with a criminal record.

Bringing prostitution out into the open, they say, will reduce violence against women and improve the health of sex workers and their clients. Decriminalise prostitution, and you bring it out of the underground and off the black market. Bottom line: right now, a lot of people are engaged in prostitution without practicing safe sex. In countries like The Netherlands, New Zealand and Thailand, where payment for sex is allowed, sex workers are more likely to use condoms and have lower rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

That’s where the difference between decriminalisation and legalisation comes in. Decriminalising something merely implies it’s no longer a criminal offence — like having sex with a 16-year-old boy, for instance. Legalisation means something more: actually creating a formal industry, with registered practitioners, industry bodies, even regular conferences at Sun City. The mind boggles.

And if we’re not going to legalise the industry, someone should put up large signs at every entry point (to the country, that is) warning our upstanding visitors of the dangers inherent in burying one deep into a seemingly unprotected net. This is Africa, where Aids is a terrifying reality, and your team getting eliminated in the first round will be the least of your worries if you get led down the wrong alley one dark and tempestuous night.

Will our government rise to the challenge? Or will they talk a good game, and then fail to deliver when the rubber hits the road? Time will tell. The greater good of the sex-work industry — and the ongoing sexual health of football fans from around the world — depends on it.

(This blog was also published on

  • Benzol

    Legalising something that happens anyway and is not hurting members of the society, is the sign of a true democracy. Compare this with legalised abortion or euthanasia.

    People will come with the usual objections based on the holy book forgetting that Jesus invited the Jews, who brought a prostitute to be stoned to death, “who is without sin, throw the first stone”. They disappeared. He then said to the lady: “go and do not sin any more”.

    Prostitution is typically (exceptions are proof of the rule) an act of consent between two adults or -when legalised- a business transaction between consenting parties.

    Legalisation offers protection of the law to the business partners, prevents abuse by the “arm of the law”(referred to as “the man in blue”) and opens the way to protective health care for the people in the business.

    2010 should have nothing to do with it.

    The profession will never be a rosy existence for most. It is often not a profession by choice.

  • RF

    You are quite wrong about decriminalisation versus legalisation.

    Decriminalisation means every aspect of the sex trade: pimping, procurement, trading and buying is no longer criminal. There are absolutely no restrictions other than those that relate to any other business. People are commodities and one can sell, market,recruit and advertise (inevitable young girls/women) pretty much any way one wants – 2 for the price of one, you get the picture. The police effectively walk away from any policing as it is no longer unlawful. They can no more do a raid or speak to any participants in the trade without specific info and a warrant than they can any other shop or in fact your house.

    As you can see, this more or less gives a free hand to all the exploiters and traffickers to do as they please. This is naturally what lobby groups for the sex trade in SA prefer. Don’t be fooled by the suspiciously well-funded groups who present themselves as acting for the prostitutes and continually put forward dodgy stats and allegations.

    Legalisation is pretty much the same thing but confined to specific areas. Outside of those areas it is illegal. In Australia both have been adopted by different states but the result has been pretty much the same.

    In both cases pimps etc become businessmen overnight and can donate to politicians officially, put out spin and stand for election themselves.

    Countries that have either decriminalised or legalised all form the top destinations for trafficked women in the UN trafficking report. If you doubt that this would happen here, just consider the horrific allegations of trafficking and sheer numbers of foreign women brought into strip clubs by Jackson and co (see inter alia Noseweek December).

    Decriminalisation has proved a complete failure as a social experiment for women and the world is now moving on from it.

    Amsterdam(legalised/decriminalised 2000)has conceded that it has failed and that organised crime dominates the industry where sex trafficking, exploitation,drug abuse and money laundering is rife. The majority of the window brothels are being closed and a raft of restrictions being brought in. A very recent report by the German Govt has stated that none of the objectives of legalisation in 2002 have been met. New Zealand cities are suffering with increased street and child prostitution and strip club owners complain of being undercut by illegals trafficked in and hence much cheaper.

    Countries as diverse as Sweden, Norway, South Korea, Italy and now the UK are all starting to criminalise the male buyers as a more effective way to stop the abuse and exploitation of women in the trade as well as to stop the trafficking. Exit programmes are being funded to assist women out of the trade

    In South Africa, however, one of the most NB aspects of the world cup that seems to occupy the minds of my countrymen, is that every football spectator should be able to exploit local women/girls for sex and for the profit that can be made by pimps and cities.China has its problems but at least they made it clear that the Olympics was about sport and their women were presented in the most positive and dignified light

    What are South African women supposed to take away from this cup that is positive for them?

  • Jean Meiring

    “[T]o loose the dogs of whore?”

    You couldn’t perhaps have assmbled even more hackneyed expressions about prostitution, could you?

  • Peter van der Merwe

    You’re absolutely right, RF. Prostitution is, more often than not, one of the fatter tentacles of the organised crime syndicates, who don’t give a hoot about the rights of the women they are exploiting. Perhaps legalisation is not the answer – but I don’t see the problem going away, even when it’s against the law. Maybe the emphasis does, in fact, need to shift to criminalising the buyers.

    And you’re also right, Jean Meiring. That was a little glib and cliched.

  • Hugh Robinson

    Yeah, I Cannot wait to get me a couple dozen hookers off the street give them free Air conditioned accommodation with shower facilities but the Johns pay at the door to make sure he has the money in hand so to speak. I hear the return on investment is way beyond that of the stock market. LOL

  • Hugh Robinson

    RF on January 26th, 2009 at 10:14 pm Quote:
    >>What are South African women supposed to take away from this cup that is positive for them?

  • RF

    Hugh, it seems that this is a matter of some degree of amusement for you. For me, a South African woman, not so much.

  • RF

    Peter, the law has not effectively been enforced for about 10 years. No laws work if one does not actually put them into operation. Prostitution is not really that difficult to police. Like all other crimes, one would be disappointed if one set as one’s goal total eradication. Heck, if that was the goal, we should throw in the towel on drunken driving right now. Obviously the law is not working there.

    The thing about prostitution is that it is very difficult to really go underground. Residents always pick up on it. The police always know where sex is being sold. Unlike even a drugs buy prostitution is far more visible. In order to make a lot of profit – and this is the aim – there will be the inevitable foot or vehicular traffic that is noticed very quickly by those in the surrounds.

    On I December 2007 the buyers were actually criminalised by sec 11 of the amended Sexual Offences Act. Yes, you are right , I don’t think one buyer has been prosecuted under the section.I know of one or two that were arrested when a brothel in a suburb was closed, not because of prostitution but drugs. The chap was let go , I was told, by a sympathetic policewoman because his wife might find out. Sort of undermining the whole point of going after the mostly married buyers.

    And then, of course, there are the guys in the news media doing their bit via the classified ads to promote and advertise for the pimps, procurers and traffickers. If various relevant laws were enforced here there would be a few newsmen having to explain themselves.

    The State may also confiscate any property used in criminal activity.

    We have the tools to deal with a lot of our crime problems but they are just not really being used right now for a variety of reasons. And prostitution is really just one area where they are not being used.

  • Hugh Robinson

    Oh get off your high horse RF. The target of the joke was you and of coarse like all crusaders you missed the point. You writing reminds of the lesbians who control the feminist movement and the resultant destruction of natural man to woman frivolity.

    Of coarse we must always assume that these poor women / men [ I see you not mention the M word anywhere ] are forced into prostitution and must be saved from the Demons. What a laugh.

    This is the easiest money anyone can earn. No brains and men will pay big bucks for the “right” woman / man

    I have done Costume designs for strippers male and female who no doubt turned a trick or two for years. Every single one asked why they should work for a day when they get twice as much for an hour. Most support families in a better lifestyle than I.

    If your target is the so-called poor, who you believe are forced into prostitution for socio economic reason then by all means rush out and save them.

    Be warned that once they find that you advocate working for a living without the free lunch that goes with your offer, few will remain in that employ for long.

    It is a matter of the entrepreneurial spirit and the hopes of the fortune that drives them. One has to be tough to be a hooker and latch onto every opportunity or sucker you find.

  • Hugh Robinson

    RF In case you miss this. There is a sexworkers convention in Jhb. They will be discussing among other things

    The Quote: “issues of law and law enforcement including how to decrease the number of arbitrary arrests; how to get legal recourse for police brutality and state-sanctioned violence; and how to advocate for the decriminalisation of sex work,” the organisers of the conference said on Wednesday.

    Labour issues will also be discussed, including how to make working environments safer; how to increase the bargaining power of sex workers with their clients; and how to guarantee that sex workers are treated fairly by their employers.


    I think you should get up there and have your say.

  • ddaydoll