Internet boosts business in Soweto's sex-for-sale trade

PICTURE: KABELO MOKOENA
PICTURE: KABELO MOKOENA

Sex workers in Soweto have upped their game by using a website to sell their services.

Unlike their curbside counterparts, the ladies and gentlemen of the night market their services by posting their butts, naked pictures and tools of their trade on free classified website www.adsafrica.co.za

Although the website is also used by sex workers elsewhere in South Africa, the Soweto sex traders have hailed it for increasing the number of clients. Those who spoke to Sowetan said the number of clients has shot up by more than 100% a week since they started advertising on the site.

According to the website, they charge R100 for a 15-minute romp, R150 for 30 minutes, R250 for an hour and R700 for a night of passion.

Some of the sex workers know each other and do not regard themselves as rivals.

Most cited the high unemployment rate as a reason for heading into the sex trade. Sowetan also found that they use fake names, have dedicated telephone numbers for their work and they operate from units they rent.

Messages like "no rush no fusses", "come offload with just R100", "I'm your tall; slender; fit and firm girl with portable a**", "yellow bone diva at Moroka North", "come join in my bed" and "your wish is my command" are used to attract customers.

All the women Sowetan interviewed emphasise that they use condoms and do not do house calls as they regard these as life threatening. They said they rent a house for not longer than a year, before moving into another township.

Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce spokes-woman Lesego Tlhwale said: "Sex workers use several platforms to market their business, and online/internet sex work is one of the platforms they chose, even though sex work is illegal [in South Africa]. So what needs to happen is [for] government to decriminalise sex work and make it safe for everyone working on the street, brothel or internet."

What the neighbours make of trade

Some of the neighbours of sex workers who are operating from the comfort of their homes have pleaded ignorance about the trade.

Soweto resident Hendrick Makola was taken aback when asked about his neighbour's activities in a house nearby.

"I'm hearing about it for the first time from you," said Makola, 25, who has been living in Glenridge, Soweto, for 10 years.

Makola condemned the operation, saying it could rub off negatively on youngsters who might see it as an easy way out should they struggle to find jobs.

"The authorities should put an end to this [prostitution] with immediate effect."

Makola's female neighbour, who preferred to remain anonymous, was equally shocked.

"The surprising thing is that we hold meetings on a regular basis where we discuss negative things like crime and so on happening in our vicinity, and no one has ever raised the issue of prostitution."

Another neighbour, who asked not be named, revealed that the information only came to light after his friend recently brought it to his attention.

"I don't think prostitutes should be criticised because people don't operate on the same moral level and it is not negatively affecting members of the community," he said.

Napo Lephalale, who has been living in White City for more than 30 years, said he first heard about the sex trade rumours in February.

"I don't think it's good for school children to be exposed to prostitution because as soon as these young girls become broke they will consider venturing into the trade," Lephalale argued.

He said, however, prostitutes could work for men who "don't want to cheat" and prefer "buying" sex on the side as there were no strings attached.

Lephalale's neighbour Pamela Ndlovu said she has never heard of or seen signs of the sex workers operating in the area.

"If we could find out where these sex workers are operating, we as community members could protest and get them out of our township," she said angrily.

Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce spokeswoman Lesego Tlhwale said: "In no way is sex work an easy way out, but sometimes the only way to make a living in a country with the largest unemployment rate in the world."