'only blacks are harassed'

CAPE Town's new Metro police vice squad is unfairly targeting black sex workers, while leaving white sex workers to practice their trade freely in the city's brothels.

Four sex workers who spoke to Sowetan in Salt River in Cape Town yesterday accused Cape Town's head of safety and security, Jean-Pierre Smith, of turning a blind eye to white sex workers who dominate the city's escort agencies.

They said Smith's new vice squad had only raided Cape Town's Main and Voortrekker roads, where almost all the sex workers are black.

"They don't bother with the agency workers," said a sex worker who declined to be named.

"I want to get off the street and into an agency but the agencies only want white girls," said another sex worker, who also wished to remain anonymous.

Smith launched the vice squad a few weeks ago, saying it would crack down on prostitution in the city and would arrest sex workers and their clients.

He told Sowetan more than 18 clients had been arrested so far.

But sex worker Babalwa Jackson said: "The vice squad cops told us they are cleaning Cape Town because sex workers are making Cape Town dirty.

"What makes us the dirty ones?" she asked.

Jackson said the vice squad liked to arrest them on a Friday night, forcing them to spend the weekend in prison.

"When we don't come back what will our kids do all weekend?" she asked.

The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat), which promotes decriminalisation of sex work, also slammed the vice squad.

"It will leave real criminals untouched, while victimising sex workers - who are already among the main victims of crime," said Sweat director Eric Harper.

"The vice squad will make it difficult for mothers to put food on the table for their children ," he warned.

But Smith said the vice squad was not racist and that metro cops were dealing with nuisances on streets and public places.

"Once we start departing from streets and public places, we get on a weaker footing," Smith said.

Despite this, he said. the vice squad will soon start to crack down on brothels in terms of the the Sexual Offences Act.