There are some 1 300 sex workers registered in the city, the majority of whom get involved in the industry to meet their financial needs.

There are about 1 300 sex workers registered in the city–, the majority of whom get involved in the industry to meet their financial needs. Of these, about 250 work the streets while 964 ply their trade independently or at brothels. Young girls are often lured with the promise of a higher income but the risks involved are sometimes more than they bargained for. CARYN DOLLEY talks to the women involved and discovers what happens behind the scenes.

She’s a 15-year-old girl working the streets of Bellville as a prostitute.

And, says Vice Squad assistant chief Nathan Ladegourdie, the youngster’s not the only one.

The Vice Squad is run by the City of Cape Town and is aimed at cracking down on prostitution.

It also tries to help sex workers – who want to leave the industry – find a way out.

According to Ladegourdie, Vice Squad members only recently discovered the girl, who was originally from Belhar.

He said while they had previously come across her, she had supplied them with a false name and told them she was much older.

Ladegourdie said the girl became a prostitute about two years ago in Bellville and was convicted of theft last year.

She was sentenced to a juvenile facility, but after spending three months there she left and returned to work as a prostitute in Bellville.

Ladegourdie said a magistrate had since ordered the girl to return to the juvenile facility in Wellington. She would be allowed to leave when she turned 18.

The Vice Squad keeps a data base of sex workers operating in Cape Town.

According to Ladegourdie, 1 296 women and 30 men had been registered over a period of 11 months, ending in March.

A police investigator, who worked on trafficking cases and who declined to be named as he was not permitted to speak to the media, said girls and women who did not necessarily choose to get involved in sex work were often lured into the industry.

He said a classic example was brothels advertising as massage parlours and looking to employ young women.

“The girls respond to the ads and are trained on the spot. They earn a pittance as masseuses. They’re told to make more money, they should perform blow jobs. This turns into full blown sex,” the investigator said.

He said because clients constantly wanted new women, if those employed in brothels in the city centre were not servicing enough clients, they were then transferred to less popular brothels. The investigator said when police raided brothels, officers often did not find any signs of illegal activity as the establishments had plans in place to prepare for raids.

He said during operations, officers warned girls what their jobs could lead to and offered to help them leave.

“Sometimes they choose to leave, sometimes they don’t,” the investigator said.

In a publication called “Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation, Lies & Deceit: What you haven’t been told” and written by a number of NGO representatives, a sex worker’s story was cited.

A woman identified as “M” said she had responded to an advert for a receptionist/ trainee masseuse at an establishment in Long Street.

“I was divorced and needed the money for my baby. I really did not know what I was in for. As a white girl, I found that the men preferred the so-called coloured girls,” she said.

To try and attract more clients, M stopped using condoms. “I was earning around R20 000 a month… It dropped somewhat and I was fired,” she said.

M then got a job at Naughty 40 in Bree Street where she worked for a long time before moving to an establishment in the suburbs.

“Things are bad and I can’t support my kids so I have sent them away. I stay at this place and sleep in the beds we use for the clients. You are right, it is a complete mess up. I went to a good school and should be sitting pretty today. The sex and the drugs messed me (up),” she said.

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