Escaping from certain “hell” a Pretoria teenager has described how what seemed a dream job opportunity turned into a nightmare when attempts were made to force her into prostitution.
Speaking from her parents’ flat in Centurion this week, 19-year-old Imogan Adams, told how she, along with numerous other young South African women, were allegedly enslaved and exploited in Turkey.
“It was hell. What they wanted us to do was wrong.
“We never signed up to do what they wanted us to do,” said Imogan.
For Imogan, the opportunity offered by Germiston-based dance company, RT Concerts, appeared to be the chance of a lifetime.
“I have been dancing for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a child I have been dancing. It is what I was born to do,” she said.
Imogan said when she heard that she had been accepted to dance abroad, she thought her career was about to take off.
“I was so excited. The pictures they showed us of the hotels and the places where we were going to work looked wonderful. We were told that we were going to dance in several shows and that it would be at hotels where we would work on six-month contracts.”
That dream, according to Imogan, was shattered shortly after arriving in Istanbul.
“Within days we were given a new contract that we had to sign. We were told that we had to do ‘hosting’ at the hotels after the shows and that it had to be with men who came to the shows.”
Known as a “con”, Imogan and another girl, Tracey (not her real name), said the hosting involved talking to and “entertaining” the men.
“These men wanted sex. That was why they were there. They were not there just to watch. They wanted to touch and have sex.
“They would watch the show and then they chose who they wanted to be with. Because prostitution is illegal they would not give us money. Instead they’d walk past or up to you and give you a token like a casino chip. When they give you this it means they want you.”
Imogan said they had to dress in short tight miniskirts and high-heeled shoes.
“We had to dress up and make the men want us. We were instructed to get them to spend money at the hotels that we were dancing at and that we must ‘flirt’ with them. The men, from across the world, would buy us gifts and in exchange we would be expected to give them sex,” Imogan said.
She said that when she started refusing, she was “fired”.
“It was difficult to contact our families and when I wanted to leave I was threatened and told that I had to pay out the contract,” she said.
For Tracey (not her real name) the threat is the same.
“I want to stop, but I can’t. We have been told that if we want to break the contract, then we have to pay back all the money and I don’t have the R30 000 to pay back.
“I am upset because they have not been paying us properly. They were meant to pay us R6 000 a month, but they deducted R4 000 from us for ‘medical insurance and other costs’.
“When we asked when we would get the rest of the money, they promised us soon, but we have yet to get it. We were told we would get our monthly salaries and then commission from the ‘cons’.
“We only found out about the ‘cons’ once we arrived in Turkey and only then after we signed the new contracts which we were told were for our protection.
“What is happening is unfair, but we are scared because if we leave we get nothing and have to pay the company back,” she said.
After eventually making contact with her mother, Imogan, through the help of the South African High Commission, managed to return to South Africa.
Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela confirmed they had provided assistance. “In this particular incident the young women allegedly went to Turkey under a false premise. The high commission stepped in to assist when it became evident that they were being exploited and put them in contact with their families and facilitated their return home,” he said.
* Safety tips for working overseas
* Contact the South African High Commission in the country you are going to and provide your details and details of your employers.
* Ask about risks, danger and sahttp://datafeed1.iol.co.za/newsletters/iol/iol_daily_pmailer.php?iNewsletterId=1fety of the country.
* inquire about the dos and don’ts of that country.
* Ensure your family have your and your employers’ contact details.
* Inform people of your movements.