Enforcing Sexual Acts Will Not Drive Prostitution Underground - 14 October 2009


In a statement published in the Cape Argus on 7 October, spokesperson for the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce, Eric Harper, said that the arrests and profiling of prostitutes would only succeed in “driving the industry underground”. This was in reaction to Counsellor JP Smith’s development of a Vice Squad and the arrest of 17 prostitutes in Cape Town.

International Co-ordinator of the Christian Action Network, Taryn Hodgson, responded to this: “Whilst the Christian Action Network supports the total enforcement of the Sexual Offences Act we believe that more should be done to arrest the pimps and clients. Arrested prostitutes should also be diverted through the justice system to exit programmes and their criminal record expunged on the completion of such a programme.

“By enforcing the Sexual Offences Act our city sends out a clear message that the buying and selling of human beings is not a legitimate enterprise.

“Having a law that is not enforced is tantamount to legalizing this trade.

Legalising prostitution normalises it, making it an acceptable form of ‘work’ and makes pimping a legitimate form of business. Pimps become legitimate "sex entrepreneurs." The nature of any business is to expand. This government-sanctioned impetus fuels the demand; the industry expands and more women are recruited and trafficked to meet the demand.

“While wishing for the focus to be on the johns and pimps one has to acknowledge the positives that have arisen out of the arrest of prostitutes recently. It seems that only by acting and making arrests, whether pimps, johns or prostitutes, have the authorities been able to establish what is really going on on the street and consequently be able to extricate women from abusive situations or uncover trafficking.”

As an example of this, Smith said the vice squad arrested a young prostitute from PE, who requested help to exit prostitution. However, her Nigerian pimp held her toddler hostage as a way of trapping her in the sex trade. A 17 year old was picked up prostituting on Beach Road and taken home to her very surprised mother.

Contrary to what SWEAT believes, it is the legalisation of prostitution that creates an even bigger underground trade.

Many pimps and owners of brothels are involved in organised crime and are experts at evading paying taxes and avoiding detection by the police.


Australia is an excellent example of how legalising prostitution causes it to spiral out of control.

Tax investigators in New South Wales are investigating billions of dollars of unpaid taxes at both legal and illegal brothels in the area.

Ten years after brothels became legal in Queensland, Australia, 90 per cent of prostitution in the state occurs outside the law, university research shows.

The University of Queensland's Human Trafficking Working Group said Queensland's attempts to regulate prostitution have clearly failed.

In Sydney, illegal brothels now outnumber licensed premises by a ratio of four to one. They operate next to schools, hire women working on tourist visas and expose staff and clients to death and disease.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, cities like Manaukau are pleading with the government to reverse the Prostitution Reform Act. Child and street prostitution has increased and communities have been stripped of their powers to control it. Murders continue and prostitutes still don’t report assaults. Abuse in the trade continues except that now no one can do much about it. Trafficking by way of debt bondage is occurring and legal brothels have employed child prostitutes. The only people who think it is a success are the sex trade lobbyists who pushed it in the first place. This is occurring in a country with 4 million people on territory the size of the UK.

Legalisation/decriminalisation mostly benefits the pimps, traffickers and sex industry barons. People often don’t realise that decriminalisation means decriminalisation of the whole sex industry and not only the women. They haven’t thought through the consequences of legalising pimps as legitimate sex entrepreneurs.

In South Africa, in addition to local criminal crime groups, foreign organised criminal groups from Russia, Bulgaria, Thailand, China and Nigeria are already established in the local sex industry.

Strip clubs in particular have been used as not only fronts for prostitution but also to traffic in women for sexual exploitation on work permits as “exotic dancers”(Noseweek Dec 2008). Traffickers would similarly be able to bring in foreign women on work permits under the guise that they are “migrant sex workers”.

Legalising prostitution ties the hands of the police, as they are no longer able to conduct raids on brothels. It thus hampers their ability to monitor trafficking.

“The Christian Action Network urges members of the public to assist the vice squad by patrolling affected areas of Cape Town, taking photographs of clients. Groups can also befriend and minister to the prostitutes where possible.”

CONTACT: International Co-ordinator of the Christian Action Network, Taryn Hodgson on 072 215 4801 or 021-689 4480, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa [email protected] - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
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