Prostitution in Lansdowne has become a major problem for police who said they could do nothing about it until they caught someone in the act. This, they said, contributed to the rise of sex workers in the area.
Lansdowne police and the Lansdowne Community Police Forum (CPF) held an imbizo on Tuesday September 11 at The Venue in Lansdowne where they addressed the issue of prostitution.
Station commander, Colonel Shawn van Wyk, said sex workers were present in the area every day and more on Friday and Saturday evenings.
He said women aged 18 to 30 and sometimes older were selling their bodies and although numerous complaints from residents had been received, there was nothing the police could do about it unless they caught the sex worker committing a sexual act in public.
“We want to try a new approach where we will be speaking to the buyer instead of the seller and discourage the buyer by telling them that we will post their vehicle pictures on social media in our crime reports. We will also contact their families,” he said.
He urged the community not to support sex workers for as long as there was a demand for sex workers there would be a reason for more and more women to join the trade.
“Get involved with the police and your neighbourhood watches and forums and let’s put a stop to this,” he said.
Lansdowne ward councillor, Mark Kleinschmidt said while patrolling the area he noticed about six to seven sex workers on the roads each night. He said this was prevalent from Lansdowne Road to Wetton Circle from about 7pm until 5 or 6am the next day.
Mr Kleinschmidt said when he spoke to the sex workers many of them said sold their bodies to keep up with of the constant increase in the cost of living, and having to provide for their children and pay rent.
“When you look into their eyes and speak to them, they are sad. They don’t want to be part of it but they need an income. They do it for a fix, or for money for food. There is a dire need for an income and they are willing to risk human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and abuse for some money,” he said.
He said although residents had complained about sex workers in the area, sex workers needed to be rehabilitated holistically before a change could happen.
Lansdowne CPF chairperson, Rafique Foflonker, said although residents had complained, many people living in the area were among those who support the sex workers.
“This is attracts further elements of crime and all types of unsavoury characters. There are complaints that sex workers are robbing the people as well. We need more community support here,” he said.
However, Ishtar Lakhani, advocacy manager for the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), said sex workers were often the only breadwinners in their families and some had four to seven dependants, including adults and children, hence they depend on the income.
“The police have previously tried this approach and this will further drive sex work underground, sending them to unknown locations with limited or no access to facilities or healthcare.
“Sex workers will protect their income,” she said.