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COVID-19: Durban City Cops Launch Crackdown On Sex Workers Defying Lockdown Regulations

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Sandile Motha

The Durban metro police have launched a crackdown on sex workers who defy the Level 4 COVID-19 Lockdown regulations by continuing to peddle flesh in the Durban central business district.

Octavia Sithole, a sex worker and an activist who founded a social media group #SexWorkisEmploymenttoUs, said there were more than 3000 women who are registered with their movement asking for help since the commencement of the lockdown in March.

“These are desperate young women some with college degrees but cannot find employment, selling sex to them is a livelihood. They feed their families and pay their own university studies. They are not asking for any handouts or favours but wants to be allowed to operate without being victimised and harassed by police,” said Sithole.

She added that police in Durban often asked for sexual favours and bribes from their clients and if they refused they threaten them with arrest.

“Both the metro cops and SAPS are harassing us. They target beautiful young women and ask for sex, saying they would ensure that they continue working on the streets. Many of the women agree because they want protection. In addition to our frustrations, the Corona virus has had a negative impact on our work and police are profiting in our sufferings,” added Sithole.

Msawakhe Mayisela, eThekwini municipality spokesperson said they had taken a hard stance against prostitution in the city.

“As you know sex work is prohibited in South Africa so as the city we are stamping down on all illicit activities which aims to tarnish our city and the province. With regard to the allegations of our police misbehaving, those who feel aggrieved can contact relevant investigative authorities for relief in an effort to bringing to book those who might have ill-behaved,” he said

Sithole’s claims were substantiated by her fellow sex worker, Deli Hlela, a 23-year -old from Umlazi township, South of Durban.

“Sometimes if they find you on the street operating, they would ask how much have you made for the day and ask for a share. With me I’ve lost count on how many times I have been forced to offer sex for protection. Many of us have accepted because when we lay a charge of rape nobody cares to listen to a sex worker,” she said.

Hlela said she found herself in the sex trade after losing her both parents who had taken care of her and his two younger brothers.

“When they passed away my two brothers were very young so I had to take care of them financially. We had no relatives as both my parents were immigrants from Swaziland so they never made contacts with any of their relatives back home. Through this money, I was able to build a decent home for me and my siblings,” she said.

She said the home that her father had bought in Glenwood Suburb was auctioned off because the property was owing.

Hlela said the sex profession also enabled her to finance her tertiary studies and last year she graduated with diploma in financial accounting.

She said when business is good she can make up to R5 000 or more per week.

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