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By Kate Forbes, BBC News

Will prostitution ever be decriminalised in South Africa? The women's league of the governing African National Congress party hopes so and it has claimed a victory which takes the country one step further towards legal soliciting, writes the BBC's Kate Forbes in Johannesburg.

Lilly, 32, has been working as a prostitute in Johannesburg for six years.

She puts her coffee cup down gently to avoid drawing attention, as she explains to me in a low voice what life is like as a prostitute on the city's very mean streets.

"I know of women caught on the streets by police who have been the victims of horrific humiliation," she says.

"Like spraying pepper spray on a woman's private parts, or forcing her to stand naked while they take photos.

"You can't make a complaint because you'll be arrested and prosecuted for being a sex worker. You have no rights."

Lilly and her peers embody the argument for decriminalising prostitution in South Africa.

A conservative society and unsympathetic police force leave women and men in the sex industry with few rights when things go wrong.

However, the ANC Women's League (ANCWL) has just won a key victory to change things for men and women like Lilly.

The principle of decriminalisation was adopted at the recent ANC's policy conference, which sets it on track for approval when the party meets again to decide national policy in December.


Unexpected move?
Hlengiwe Mkhize, the group's treasurer and South Africa's deputy minister of economic development, laughs when asked if this is a new direction for the women's league.

The ANC Women's League treasurer and Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Professor Hlengiwe MkhizaHlengiwe Mkhize says money spent harassing sex workers could be better spent retraining them

They are working hard to shake off a sometimes unfair reputation for being benign church-going ladies who let the rest of the ANC do the talking.

"Yes, it may be seen as an unexpected move from us, but we have seen that there is a need to protect women, and that this agenda is not being addressed," she says.

"We made a decision that [prostitutes] are women too, and need protection.

"There is no context here that protects women's rights; there are no special laws, we don't have shelters for vulnerable women and there isn't a network of help for them."

It is the women's league's aim to help women "reclaim their dignity", she says.

"The money we spend harassing and criminalising them could be spent retraining or re-orienting them."

So does the decriminalisation debate show that women in South Africa are becoming more able to steer the political debate?

Before the first free elections in 1994, the ANCWL was told that it should not be campaigning for women's rights but focus on the national liberation struggle instead.

After 1994, the group has achieved victories such as the creation of a ministry for women, but the political landscape remains one dominated by men.

For a nation reborn on the principle of equality, South Africa has found it difficult to make that equality a reality for women.

Women earn less, have fewer opportunities and suffer high levels of rape and assault.

South Africa is traditionally Christian and conservative, and so the argument over supply and demand of sex workers is key to the debate here, as are concerns over the trafficking of women.

A friend of Lilly's, Sarah, also a prostitute, says that she thinks twice before reporting underage or trafficked women to the police.

"I don't want to get taken in by the police for soliciting," she says.

"It is really risky, so it's difficult to report. Sometimes you just mind your own business."


'Encourage demand'

But for trade union group Fedusa, which represents workers across the racial spectrum in South Africa, decriminalisation misses the point.

"We think that decriminalising prostitution will encourage supply, which will in turn encourage demand," says Dennis George, the union's general secretary. Close-up image of Lilly's handsSex workers like Lilly and Sarah may one day be able to work legally

"If there is bad policing let's tackle that," he says emphatically, speaking to the BBC as he runs between meetings.

"We know it's an industry as old as the mountains but that doesn't mean we have to live with it."

Trade unions are hugely influential in politics in South Africa, and so Fedusa's opposition is important.

However, an even bigger union grouping, Cosatu, has lent its support to the women's league on this issue, and so the months leading up to December will see fierce debate on whether prostitution will eventually become decriminalised.

Change for women like Lilly is on the horizon, although it may not be soon.

"We have strengthened our position and we're going to use that to strengthen the position of women who are some of the most disadvantaged in our society," says Ms Mkhize.

"We are on track for change".

[This news article was sourced from BBC News: Will South Africa make prostitution legal?]

Published in News
Friday, 29 June 2012 13:18

SA sex workers plea for equality

By Sibongakonke Mama, of IOL News

Sex workers say there will be major benefits if the industry is decriminalised and that they would be entitled to the same rights as those in other areas of employment.

In addition, they say relations with the police would improve and that they would be more likely to report abuse. SA also needs to accept, they say, that prostitution is a reality that isn’t going to disappear.

Duduzile Dlamini, 35, who has been a sex worker for almost 10 years, said decriminalisation would help rid the country of human trafficking.

“It’s not going anywhere. Decriminalisation will assist in improving the industry. We know and see a lot but can never report it. It will allow us to report underage sex workers and trafficking without fear of arrest,” said Dlamini.

Lloyd Rugara, a 32-year-old gay sex worker who was held hostage in an upmarket suburb in the city for six months, said he wanted his work to be recognised as a job like any other to protect sex workers from similar ordeals.

“They threatened to kill me if I didn’t take the drugs. I was forced to have sex with all those men, I don’t even remember how many, while the man who hired me watched on a hidden camera,” said Rugara.

Dlamini said decriminalisation would also ensure that sex workers were afforded human rights which, she says, have been violated.

In addition, those working in brothels would be able to go to the CCMA should they be unfairly dismissed and would also be entitled to maternity leave and overtime, Dlamini said.

Oratile Moseki, advocacy manager for the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat), said decriminalisation was the only way to go.

“It’s not the magic pill that will solve everything. But other states and countries, like New South Wales and New Zealand, have shown that decriminalisation is the only system that improves relations between sex workers and police.

“Health outcomes in general, under decriminalisation, are better. It motivates brothel owners to hold high health standards and ensure that sex workers practice safe sex without any inhibitions,” said Moseki.

[This news article was sourced from IOL News: SA sex workers plea for equality]

Published in News
Monday, 07 May 2012 08:21

Sex work is work

By Abel Shinana, African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA) Co-ordinator

Allow me to forward a response in support of the article ‘KK renews call for prostitution to be legalized'. Honourable KK (Swapo Party MP Kazenambo Kazenambo) making this request for the “umpteenth time” in parliament showing his concern for fellow Namibian citizens based on the realities faced by Sex Workers in an unprotected work environment is not an issue that should be ignored or taken lightly.

According to the available studies, sex work takes place all over Namibia, although it is most visible in border areas, on transport corridors, in the port of Walvis Bay and in the capital, Windhoek. Vulnerability to a variety of health-risks is compounded by problems faced in accessing services, notably stigma and discrimination from health-care professionals, the excessive costs of obtaining services and often the non-availability of drugs and trained staff.

It is clear from several sources that some of the behaviors of law enforcement officers have little to do with upholding the rule of law and more to do with abusing gaps in the lack of recourse to justice suffered by sex workers. Routine reports of arbitrary violence and extortion against sex workers by police and ‘officers of the law’ continue to surface.

This is in fact a continent-wide epidemic which enforces silence in the face of subsidiary social crimes, such as child-abuse and trafficking, which take advantage of the lack of legal support for workers in the sex industries. Police violence against legally unprotected citizens - no matter what their work choices are - creates further violence and criminal abuse, making a mockery of the very concept of law enforcement.

Given the well-known risk and spread of HIV and sex workers being well placed - in reality as it is lived, not idealised through moral wish fulfillment - to deal with and work creatively in educating, advocating and supporting programs and initiatives designed to combat the spread of HIV, it is a matter of urgency that KK’s renewed calls for legalisation be heard and supported with a view to creatively dealing with an issue which is far larger than moral sanction against what is a working choice for many. It has far more to do with economic circumstance than moral poverty.

There is indeed moral poverty in not actioning this change in perception.

[This news article was sourced from Informanté: Sex work is work]

This letter was shortened by the Editor of Informanté.

Published in News

By Leanne Farish, The Big Issue

The call to decriminalise prostitution in South Africa by the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) could lead to a more effective clampdown on human traffickers supplying the local sex trade, advocacy groups argue.

This follows the ANCWL’s mid-April confirmation that they will present an argument for the decriminalisation of prostitution at the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung this December.

Some opposed to the decriminalisation of prostitution have argued that such a move will lead to an increase in human trafficking into the sex trade. But according to several South African women’s rights organisations, this is not the case.

“Decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa will not result in an increase in sex trafficking or child sex work, based on evidence from New Zealand [which decriminalised prostitution in 2003],” says Stacey-Leigh Manoek of the Women’s Legal Centre. Manoek points to research which shows that decriminalisation in New Zealand did not lead to any increase in sex trafficking or under-age sex work.

In fact, decriminalising prostitution could actually help law enforcement to identify and arrest traffickers, according to the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat).

“A key benefit of decriminalisation is a vast improvement in the relationship between police and sex workers, to the point that sex workers become key information sources in attempts to uncover human trafficking. Currently, sex workers are afraid to do so because they might end up being arrested,” says Sweat advocacy officer Ntokozo Yingwana.

“Also, decriminalisation will also bring into effect stronger laws against coerced sex work, trafficking and under-age sex work, all which are not forms of adult consensual sex work.”

[This news article was sourced from The Big Issue: ANCWL’s decriminalisation call may expose human traffickers]

Published in News

By CTVNews.ca Staff

Lawyers for the federal government and a group of Vancouver sex workers are in Canada's top court Thursday to argue the validity of an attempted constitutional challenge to the country's prostitution laws.

Since 2007, the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society have been arguing that Canada's prostitution laws violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The group wants to challenge the laws that ban keeping a bawdy house, communicating for the purpose of prostitution, living off the avails of prostitution and procurement.

But it is not those laws that will be heard Thursday. Instead, lawyers are arguing whether the sex workers' challenging those laws in the British Columbia Supreme Court have the legal right to do so.

The federal government initially challenged the case and tried to get it thrown out of court. The government argues the sex-trade workers can't launch a Charter challenge because it doesn't qualify for public interest standing.

To qualify for public interest before the court, lawyers must demonstrate:

  • The issue is serious
  • There is no other reasonable way for the issue to come before the court
  • Those launching the case must be directly affected by it

The 2008, the B.C. Supreme Court agreed with Ottawa and denied the workers' appeal for public interest standing. But that decision was overturned in 2010, when it was appealed by the sex workers.

A decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on the issue is not expected for several months.

Supports for the sex workers' cause are expected to protest in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa Thursday afternoon.

To watch a video clip of this news story, visit the following link: CTV National News: Fight over prostitution laws

[This news article was sourced from CTV.ca http://ottawa.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20120119/sex-trade-workers-court-120119/20120119/?hub=OttawaHome ]

Published in News

By Kirsten West Savali, News One

Barbara Terry (pictured), 52, is a mother of four children – two of which she has lovingly sent off to college, after raising them as a single mother. After 30 years of back-breaking work, she is on the verge of purchasing a home in Upstate New York, embarking on the much-deserved retirement leg of her life’s journey.

While her story is similar to many Black women, there is one small detail that makes people do a double-take: She’s a prostitute.

Terry is not just any prostitute, though. The New York Times reports that Terry appeared as “Cleo” in the 1990’s urban classic documentary, “Hookers at the Point,” and she has plowed her trade in the same Bronx neighborhood for more than 30 years, losing teeth and turning tricks while her mother and grandmother “pray for her every Sunday at church.”

Terry is a preferred customer at Riker’s Island, having been arrested more than 100 times. Obviously, her children want her to stop living in the streets, but that matter is closed to discussion:

When they were old enough to understand, I would tell them the truth,” said Ms. Terry of her grown children. I’d say, This is how I’m supporting you. For me, it’s a business, a regular job.

Terry’s profitable, albeit, unorthodox occupation opens the door to a very provocative question that has been recycled again and again over time without any discernible shift in policy:

Should prostitution be legal?

First, making its official appearance in the Holy Bible, prostitution is considered “the world’s oldest profession.” Controversial Nigerian musician and the Father of Afro-Beat Fela Anikulapo-Kuti also speaks of it in his revealing autobiography, “This Bitch of a Life,” by Carlos Moore, explaining that in Yoruban culture it is called “asewo” and is considered the equivalent of European men providing dowries to take possession of their wives.

At this pivotal point in history, unemployment stands at an improved 8.5 percent, yet still 15.8 percent in the Black community are jobless. It’s become such a desperate situation that stay-at-home Moms are resorting to becoming phone sex operators in order to survive.

Still, even in these crushing times, Nevada remains the only state in the nation where prostitution is legal, operating in eight rural counties. According to state officials, Nevada employs about 1,000 women who take pride in their profession. Senator Harry Reid is less than thrilled with his state’s reputation as a depraved vice-riddled free-for-all and called for an end to the sex trade last February:

When the nation thinks about Nevada, it should think about the world’s newest ideas and newest careers, not about its oldest profession. If we want to attract business to Nevada that puts people back to work, the time has come to outlaw prostitution.

Though the federal government has consistently backpedaled away from the explosive discussion surrounding prostitution, when one pulls back the sheets, it’s obvious that the decision to criminalize prostitution is a moral one, not one grounded in unbiased, sound policy decision-making.

George Flint, lobbyist for the Nevada Brothel Owners Association, reported that no licensed female prostitutes in Nevada have contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in more than 25 years. Adversely, the fatal disease continues to decimate the African-American community: Of all new cases, 1 to 4 are women and 2 to 3 of that number are African-American women, making it the leading cause of death for Black women aged 25 to 34.

With most of those new cases attributed to unprotected hetero-sex, the horrific numbers stand in stark contrast to the clean bill of health given to prostitutes in Las Vegas.

Legalizing prostitution would be in keeping with recent developments that show governments are willing to try creative approaches to curbing what they consider “lawlessness.” From organizations selling crack pipes to addicts in Vancouver, Canada — to document drug abuse numbers and provide sanitary tools that will possibly slow down the transmittance of diseases between drug users — to the intense push by some law enforcement officials to legalize marijuana, the signature libertarian value of civil liberties that allow individuals to have control over their own fate is being hesitantly pushed front and center as this nation tackles complex socio-cultural issues.

Closer to the point, the crime shouldn’t be prostitution. The real crime is criminalizing what women choose to do with their bodies.

People are going to have sex, lots of it, and men (and a few women) are going to continue to pay for it if need be. The U.S. pornography industry makes an estimated $10 billion annually, netting larger revenues than “Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined,” according to industry insiders.

What is pornography if not legalized prostitution?

Hypocritically, there is no police hotline to call when a woman spreads her legs for a pair of red bottoms and a Happy Meal; yet, we criminalize women, such as Terry, who struggle to support their families with the only resource they feel they have available.

In 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) made their stance on prostitution crystal clear:

Prostitution laws are also a violation of the right of individual privacy because they impose penal sanctions for the private sexual conduct of consenting adults. Whether a person chooses to engage in sexual activity for purposes of recreation, or in exchange for something of value, is a matter of individual choice, not for governmental interference. Police use of entrapment techniques to enforce laws against this essentially private activity is reprehensible.

The question of the “oldest profession in the world” is a subjective morality issue, not a policy issue – or at least it should be. While this may be a novel idea for this country, if we keep politics far away from a woman’s vagina, the results may surprise many of us.

It is time for us to evolve in our collective thinking and incorporate methods that actually solve problems in this country, not create them. For that to occur, however, people must stop making the dangerous mistake of equating “legal” and “illegal” with the illusive ideals of “right” and wrong.”

[This news article was sourced from NewsOne http://newsone.com/nation/kirstensavali/legalizing-prostitution-is-sex-more-valuable-when-it%E2%80%99s-free/]

Published in News

By Chi Mgbako (a clinical associate professor in the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School in New York City)

My Fordham Law students and I recently returned from a research trip to Cape Town, where we’re working with the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force and other stakeholders on the campaign to decriminalize sex work in South Africa.

We had the opportunity to lead a “creative space” session with a large group of South African sex workers allied with SWEAT, and we asked them how the criminalization of prostitution affects their lives. Among other challenges, they described how criminalization fosters grinding stigma and discrimination that creates barriers to their access to health services. They spoke passionately of their need for “dignified medical treatment.”

As we mark the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers today (prior post), it’s worth remembering that violence has many faces.

The criminalization of prostitution amounts to structural violence denying sex workers the right to health. Criminalization increases the risk of HIV and sexual transmitted infections for sex workers in South Africa and throughout the world, because it:

-Fuels stigma towards sex workers in the healthcare setting;
-Fosters police abuse of sex workers; and thus
-Ensures the lack of sex worker involvement in the development of health policy decisions that affect them.

[To read the rest of this blog post visit http://intlawgrrls.blogspot.com/2011/12/criminalization-of-prostitution-as.html

Published in Decriminalisation
Monday, 12 December 2011 12:03

MP pushes legalisation of prostitution

An MDC-T legislator has vowed to continue pushing for the legalisation of prostitution and the inclusion of the "pleasure engineers'" rights in the country’s constitution.

Thabitha Khumalo, the MDC-T Member of Parliament for Bulawayo East, last week signed a petition calling for the decriminalization of the world’s oldest profession at an event said to have been attended by scores of working girls from the city.

“It (prostitution) is here to stay and we need to bite the bullet. Pleasure engineering did not begin in Bulawayo or Zimbabwe. It all began in the Garden of Eden and one of those pleasure engineers was Eve,” Khumalo told guest at the event.

“Who in their right mind will deny it? We will have to embrace it, whether we like it or not.”

Khumalo threatened to expose colleagues using the services of prostitutes if her campaign is not supported in Parliament. “Every time I get a chance to speak in Parliament I will speak of the decriminalisation of prostitution,” she said.

“If the calls are not heard then we will name and shame some ministers and other officials who have sought the services of pleasure engineers,” she said. Meanwhile working girls who attended the event organized by the Sexual Rights Centre blasted police for demanding free sex.

“They (police) love free rides because they carry guns and handcuffs. They take us to dark corners and take away our dignity and hard earned money,” one of the girls said. “Health workers too should stop discriminating us. As sex workers we should have labour rights.”

[This news article was sourced from NewZimbabwe.com http://www.newzimbabwe.com/news-6709-MP+pushes+legalisation+of+prostitution/news.aspx]

Published in News
By Refentse Moyo, The Swazi Observer

For 15 years Thato Serite has made her living as a prostitute along Botswana’s busiest highway, hired by truckers plying the main route to South Africa.

The 35-year-old is an expert at dodging police patrols, but Botswana’s former president Festus Mogae wants to put an end to their cat-and-mouse game by legalising prostitution in hopes of bringing down one of the world’s highest HIV rates.

“They are always after us and we are always running or hiding away from them. Some days we get unfortunate and get caught and have to part with our cash in paying fines. Some unscrupulous officers even demand free sex in exchange of our freedom,” Serite said. One in four adults in Botswana has HIV, a rate that has hardly budged over the last decade, despite the country’s relative prosperity.

Botswana doesn’t track the infection rate among sex workers, but Southern Africa’s truck routes have long been regarded as a main pathway of the disease’s spread.

“Prostitutes suffer in the hands of some clients who refuse to pay after getting the services, or who demand unprotected sex,” Serite said. “It can be really tough in the streets.”

Mogae, the head of the National Aids Council, argues that legalising prostitution would make it easier to help sex workers prevent the disease.

“Decriminalising sex work does not mean encouraging it, but it would rather pave way for policies that protect those who have been forced into the trade,” he told a recent council meeting.

“They will be able to report men who forcibly put them at risk of contracting the virus, and in turn men who seek their services will no longer abuse them as might be the situation now,” he said.

‘Religious prohibitions haven’t worked’

Legalising the sex trade would also free up police to focus on other crimes, rather than chasing adults having consensual sex with their clients, he says.

Mogae plans to bring his recommendations to cabinet and parliament.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party, which Mogae once led, has yet to take a position on the proposal, while opposition leader Botsalo Ntuane has said he supports the move to decriminalise the “profession”.

But his proposal has sparked a backlash among religious groups in this conservative country.

“Sex according to Christian values is meant for people in a marriage with the aim to pro-create,” said the Catholic Church’s spokesperson Father William Horlu.

“It is taboo to engage in sex for money and I hope Botswana, being a Christian country, will not allow the trade to be decriminalised.”

Mogae, who has also called for scrapping Botswana’s sodomy law, retorts that religious prohibitions haven’t worked. “Italy is a Catholic country well known for prostitution. There is divorce among Muslims, though they have very strict rules. So we cannot talk about the church-way because it has failed in history,” he said.

The former president has won the backing of Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/Aids as well as the main opposition party. “Criminalisation of sex work leaves sex workers vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse as well as HIV infections,” said its director, Uyapo Ndadi.

“And it’s not only them who will be on the receiving end, but other men who will seek their services and partners of those men. So it’s a vicious circle that needs to be broken.”

[This news article was sourced from http://www.observer.org.sz/index.php?news=32467]

Published in News
Friday, 25 November 2011 07:45

Call me, call me anytime

By Oliver Roberts, TimesLive.co.za

At what point does a woman decide to become a call-girl? Does she remember her first client? How many does she see in a day? And can she ever leave her work behind? Oliver Roberts meets four to find out.


Wendy

THE first thing I notice when I pull into Wendy's driveway are the children's scooters scattered about the lawn. I buzz the gate and a few moments later Wendy appears at the front door, dressed in a short denim skirt and pink tank top. She's older and, for some reason, shorter than I imagined, but she's in good shape. Barefoot, tanned, short black hair.

"Wendy?" I ask as I get out the car.

"Hi," she says.

I put out my hand, which she disregards, and embraces me instead.

"Nice to meet you," she says.

From the outside, the house seems normal. I don't know what I was expecting, coming to the house of a call-girl; maybe something a little more decrepit, in a neighbourhood of mangy dogs and back gardens set with electricity pylons.

The entrance hall and lounge are sparse, the only furniture a wooden wall unit and a single bed, covered in a mottled sheet, that's been converted into a kind of couch.

I say hello to the blonde woman sitting on it. She's Wendy's friend, staying with her for a while. I sit on it too, now, the makeshift couch.

"This is where we do the strip shows," Wendy says, and she throws her arms about the expanse of the room. There's a fireplace in the near corner, and on the mantelpiece are pictures of Wendy's children, doing things like going down red slides and blowing out candles on birthday cakes.

It's after lunch. Wendy has just finished with a client. I don't ask to see the bedroom yet but I can see it from where I'm sitting - a three-quarter bed, and the windows all covered with red curtains so that air in there glows with something approaching nausea.

I spoke to Wendy on the phone a few days before. She was one of many escorts I phoned and one of only four who eventually agreed to meet me. I was intrigued by one of the lines in her advert. "Best of all, I SQUIRT!" it said. This, Wendy later told me, was her party trick - climaxing dramatically on command - and it played at least some part in the steady flow of men prepared to pay per hour to be alone in a room with her.

"He had Down's Syndrome. I'll never forget him," Wendy says of her first client. Now, hardcore rave trance music is coming from the stereo on the wall unit and Wendy's friend - blonde, husky, big-breasted - is dancing to it.

Wendy began this work aged 24, "introduced" to it by her then husband. She's 38 now and vows to stop soon because she doesn't want to be "a 40-year-old whore".

Wendy recounts a long history of abuse to me. Raped by her father and her mother's subsequent boyfriends. Horrible tales of her own violent lovers and husbands. "But about a year ago," she says, "I decided that no man was going to speak to me like dirt, no man will hit me anymore. I've had husbands and boyfriends tell me I was born to be a whore. When you get told that often enough, you believe it. But I know I'm f***ing not. I'm in this situation because of sexual abuse. But I also had that choice. I decided to do it."

She wants to finish matric, she tells me, become a child psychologist. Her phone rings again. Another man asking what he can get, and for how much.

Wendy shows me the black hardcover notebook where she keeps records of all her clients. Some days it's two men, others it's three. I see a couple of days with at least five. Her business hours are 9 to 5. After that, her children - five of them - return home. Yes, she says, two of them know what she does. Some of her regular clients - who know about the children, have seen the pictures on that mantelpiece - pay her with groceries instead of cash. ("I've got a guy, call him Fatti's and Moni's. He pays me with spaghetti.")

Most of Wendy's clients are married men. She says they come to her because it's not like having an affair, there's no danger of emotional attachment. Once, she met a client's wife for coffee. The woman wanted to know why her husband had paid for sex. What was she doing wrong?

Wendy sees herself as a kind of marriage counsellor. She says she often tells a client she doesn't want to see him back again, implores him to go back to his wife and treat her right. Some men, too, have paid her thousands of rands "just to cuddle".

"I'm very spiritual," she says. "I generally try to avoid the client actually penetrating me because when he leaves, it's like he's taken a piece of my soul."

After more than three hours, we walk outside and when we say goodbye she embraces me again, only this time she kisses me on the cheek and holds on a little longer.


Cuddly Nadia

The best time for Cuddly Nadia to fit me into her schedule comes on a Saturday morning when the Springboks are playing a match.

She asks me to meet her at the coffee shop of a hospital on the East Rand. Later, when I ask why here, she tells me she can't go to the local malls because she always bumps into clients walking around with their credulous wives.

Nadia, 38, once had a "normal office job" but willingly got into the sex trade 15 years ago. With some pride, she tells me she was the first working lady of colour on the East Rand. At the time, Beeld wouldn't take her ads. Now, the vast majority of her clients are white Afrikaners, getting off on the sweaty taboo of this large coloured lady with natural 40G breasts.

"Sometimes I can see they're disappointed when they arrive," Nadia says of clients not expecting a woman of such bulk. "But they stay anyway because I'm in a good price range. I'm known as a budget bunt."

I ask if there are any times when a man - driven by irrational lust - comes to see her and is riddled with obvious guilt and self-loathing after the act.

"Men don't have guilt buttons," she says, and she lets out a little laugh. "But maybe once a year I get someone who says they can't believe what they've just done or gets halfway through a session and says 'You know, I shouldn't have done this.'"

I imagine the scene. The skinny naked Afrikaner sitting on the edge of the bed, clutching his remorseful face in his hands, as 85kg Cuddly Nadia - all swinging breasts and dark mounds of flesh - consoles him.

"I stroke his ego. I tell him: 'Good for you, you're one of the few guys who has a conscience.' I say: 'I hope your wife appreciates you,' but in actual fact I don't give a damn about his wife."

Nadia had a "cruel" mother and was molested by a family friend when she was 12. Her mother, she says, never told her that she looked pretty.

"I have a feeling that's why I crave attention from men. Plus, I always tended to be quite promiscuous."

Nadia sometimes goes to church and was once the church organist. The oblivious minister keeps telling her to join the choir.

Wendy told me that what she'd learnt from this business is that "where there's meat, men will eat". Nadia has the same blunt regard for men's sexual posturing.

"It's not that my client wants to leave his wife, coming to me is just one of those things he does for relaxation. Some guys play horses, others play golf, others visit sex workers."

Nadia gets clients as early at 6am. There's a stream of Muslim men who come to her straight after morning prayers.

Her phone rings - it's half-time.

"Yes, when would you like to come? Look, give me a call after lunch. What time were you thinking? Yes, yes. All right. Huh? Uh-huh? I'm listening. My boob size ... that's my bust size. Ja. Okay. Give me a call after lunch; I'm just in the middle of something now."

She switches her phone off, looks at me and says: "He won't call back."


Tasha and the retired hitman

Imeet 26-year-old Tasha at a bar in Sandton. She orders a cocktail called "Faithful Bitch" and introduces me to her fiancé. They've been together a few months. He does a dull job now - something to do with computers - but retired, just recently, after years of working as a hired gun.

Tasha is an attractive blonde with a top tooth missing. Turned brittle and loose, she says, from the repetitive beatings of her previous boyfriend, who ended up as her pimp. She's been a call-girl since 19, got into it to pay the medical bills for a back operation.

Tasha's not her real name. Tasha is her alter-ego, the working girl. Her other identity - supposedly her true one - is the one in love with the ex-hitman. He knows this, accepts that it's not really his fiancée who's having sex with men for money. Not that he minds.

"Her working during the day is kind of becoming foreplay for when I get home," he says. "By the time she gets home ... yeah, well, you can do the math."

Tasha says she wants to get out of the game, lead a normal life. But 20 minutes later she tells me she enjoys what she does. What about when you get married? Will that make you stop?

"I don't think there should be a problem because it's two different people, two different personalities." Then she mentions that both she and her fiancé are seasoned swingers, and it makes perfect sense.

They live together now. Tasha, when I see her, has been 25 days clean from crack. It's a big thing. There's a separate room in the house where Tasha takes a client when her fiancé is working at home.

"Doing this makes you feel worthy of yourself," Tasha says, defying the thoughts of a woman like Wendy, who sees this work as demeaning. "When clients come back because you're good and they like you," adds Tasha, "you feel good about yourself. I had low self-esteem from being in an abusive relationship. Now, I have confidence again, I feel like my life is worth something." Her saying this makes me a little sad.

Tasha's favourite thing ("I looove it,") is seeing couples. Either a woman wanting to experience another woman, or a husband who wants to watch his wife with another woman. She once serviced a man, at the request of his wife, because he'd never been with any other woman.

"I'm a good businesswoman, good with marketing ideas," Tasha says. "Like, if I see I'm having a quiet week, I run a special - R400 for this week, for an hour, come as many times as you want."

But, she says again, she wants to get out of it someday. Maybe get into massage, but her back is still bad, she takes morphine for it.

"The equivalent pain," says the tender mercenary, reaching across the table, "would be if I was to break your arm right now."

And suddenly I am overly eager to believe him.


Oceana/Terrawhite/etc.

In a little flat in Sunninghill, I meet a striking girl who, like Tasha, uses names to switch working identities. Except this one has several.

Today, I am assured, I am speaking to Oceana, 26. But there's a character named Terrawhite - the name of a famous black porn star - who might end up in the room too. Together with Oceana and Terrawhite, this call-girl, who's been at it for just over a year, has 22 personas. She also has identical tattoos on the upper-part of each breast - skeletal representations of feline claws going in for the kill.

"This work is not something I was driven into because of a situation or something like that; I willingly went into it," she says. "You get chocoholics and whatever, and I am a sexaholic, maybe."

I am intrigued and confused by this. How is it possible to simply enjoy this work, like, as she puts it, a hobby, a game?

"It's not a big decision to make." She's twirling hair around her index finger. "It's like, you taste alcohol, you realise that you like it. What's the next step? You need to go to the bar and order it yourself, isn't it? It's like that. You have sex, then you realise 'Okay, it's not enough at home, so why not have it any time you want, and have a bonus from it?'"

I am unable to defy this logic, so I ask her about clients. Like Cuddly Nadia, the majority are middle-aged white men after some forbidden jungle fantasy.

"Lots of white oldish Afrikaans men. From Pretoria. The ones with big tummies and little shorts."

I laugh and ask if she understands why this is so, if she understands the incredible allure a black or coloured woman presents to these men.

"Ja," she smiles and nods. "And now they are having fun with it."

Still, Oceana - who has a seven-year-old daughter - insists she doesn't let just anyone into her flat, into her bed or onto the massage bed that lurks to my immediate right in the little lounge, awaiting its next happy ending.

"I'm very choosy, very picky. I don't take just any Tom, Dick and Harry. I'm a very good judge of telephone manners. The way the person speaks to me, the way they approach me, I can see if they are a true gentleman."

Oceana's mother - a pastor - knows what her daughter does for a living. Her father, though, does not. "I never stayed too much with my father," Oceana says, "so his opinion he can keep."

Her phone rings. There's a conversation, a negotiation. She puts the phone down, looks at me and smiles. She's Terrawhite now. It's time to go.


[This news article was sourced from TimesLive.co.za: http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/2011/11/13/call-me-call-me-anytime]

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