04 November 2020 | 19h53

Lenham Drive is one of the streets in Phoenix that has become a home to sex works. Sex workers linger on the road daily and patiently prepare themselves for their work. In an exclusive interview, one of the night sex traders who chose to remain anonymous, revealed that sex workers receive a lot less for almost selling their souls. Sex work has become a shameless career amongst unemployed women in need of money.

When walking on Lenham Drive towards the spot where the girls normally wait for clients, one immediately begins to feel the stillness in the air as that part of the road tends to be very quiet. On either side of the road are green trees and among there lies plastic rubble and plastic shacks which are homes to the workers.

When asked how much they make per client, *Lihle Ndlovu hesitantly replied, “there’s not a lot of money in this field. Clients really don’t want to pay a lot for our work. On a good day you’ll get R100 but clients will give us R50 most of the time.” When asked how she secures payment she responded saying that you have to ask for the money first before anything begins. She said, “You always need to be in control with every client to ensure that no one takes you for granted.”

Human trafficking amongst women and children has become a sad truth in the country especially in Gauteng which is said to be the hot spot of the vicious act. KZN is among the worst offenders and is in the highest ranks of the crime. When asked if she was afraid of being trafficked, she said, “You need to be smart. For clients without cars who approach us on foot, it’s always best to stick within a familiar area not too far from here. It’s easy to just disappear into the bush without fear of being trafficked. For customers with cars, you need to be in control and make the client know you’re in charge. You tell them where to go and you shouldn’t allow them to drive to an unfamiliar area.” While talking to Lihle, one of her clients, a grass-cutter emerged from the bushes in need of her services. She quickly went to him but shockingly emerged from the bushes minutes later. She said the client only had R20 and she refused to offer the male any service for such a  degrading amount.

The topic of sex workers remains hot in the country especially after recent protests in Cape Town last month. Elma Robyn Montsumi (39) died in police custody at Mowbray police station in April. Various organisations in aid of the rights of workers in the field have been protesting to seek the true cause of death for Montsumi as they don’t believe the cause was suicide as confirmed by a post mortem. The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force (Sweat) is among the organisations who seek to decriminalize the work and bring human rights and dignity in sex work.

A recent conversation with a government health worker who spoke on condition of anonymity questions the legality of the profession saying, “I don’t understand how sex work is illegal yet we see it everywhere in the country. We treat these workers on a regular basis in the clinics. Our clinics are equipped to medically provide treatment for sex workers yet their work is illegal – it’s a bit contradictory,” she added. The healthcare practitioner said sex workers are never upfront at clinic check-ups as they are afraid they might get arrested yet measures to treat their them medically have been provided. Lihle mentioned the importance of using protection with each client but since others do not want to use protection, she said it is medically risky but in such cases she doubles the fee.

In a Bhekisisa survey conducted in 2018, 60 sex workers were interviewed and it was found that one in three sex workers were raped and assaulted by police. Nosipho Vidima, a sex worker in Morningside, said, “I have actually lost count of how many times the police have raped me. I’ve become numb. It is a constant battle to be a sex worker, especially if you’re going to be working on the streets.” Another survey also showed that up to 11% of new HIV infections come from sex workers. Organisations such as SWEAT continue to canvas the freedom, health and human rights of sex workers. For more information about sex work, you can visit Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) which deals with health and human right’s issues for sex workers – www.sweat.org.za

*Lihle Ndlovu – not her real name

Written by Phindile Mshudulu for Phoenix Sun newspapers >> www.phoenixsun.co.za

Lot’s of Love always xxx