A tourist carries a woman as sex workers look on near Orchard Towers in Singapore February 7, 2013. An unlicensed and illegal sex trade is rampant in doorways and on street corners elsewhere in Geylang, at the notorious Orchard Towers complex known as "Four Floors of Whores" on one of Singapore's glitziest shopping streets, in numerous massage parlors and in explicit online ads. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: CRIME LAW SOCIETY)

Durban - Cash-strapped young women in Durban are resorting to selling their bodies to put themselves through university.

Wally Coombe, chairman of the Glenmore Community Watch, said they had been made aware of at least five young women who were operating as sex workers to pay their tuition fees. “In today’s socio-economic times, it’s not unusual, but it is very alarming and sad,” said Coombe.

The Independent on Saturday spoke to one young woman from the Eastern Cape, who did not want to be identified, who said she had been on the verge of selling her body for sex to pay for tuition fees.

She left the Eastern Cape to work and study in Durban.

“I had no work and wanted to register at Unisa but I didn’t have enough money. I was told by two women that if I wanted as much money as they had all I had to do was work as a prostitute,” she said.

Being shy, she was introduced to clubbing and drinking alcohol to make her brave.

“But people could see this wasn’t me... I couldn’t do such things,” she said, adding that she knew of many young women who sold their bodies to pay for university fees.

Fortunately, the Umgeni Community Empowerment Centre (UCEC), an NGO working towards uplifting the lives of the underprivileged, intervened.

“This was a happy ending, but sadly we hear of many cases where the women tell themselves that they would only sell their bodies to pay for studies for three years, but they get hooked on drugs or caught by pimps and they can’t break free,” said Joy Conradie, projects co-ordinator at UCEC.

Heather Rorick of the Bulwer Community Forum said they had seen increasingly younger girls on the streets.

“We think they are school pupils as you notice them during school and public holidays and they are out on the streets around 9am, which is possibly when the parents have all gone to work, and they leave about 4pm, possibly to make their way home before their parents arrive,” said Rorick.

The young girls saw it as an easy way to make extra money.

“Residents are gatvol… for every five we chase away there are 10 more tomorrow.”

Indepednent on Saturday