/ 25 May 2010

Researchers dismiss Cup trafficking fears

Sex work researchers have dismissed fears of a massive rise in human trafficking for the Soccer World Cup, saying cash-strapped NGOs could be tagging onto the tournament to win extra resources.

Recent research had found fears of human trafficking had been grossly exaggerated in the build up to the tournament, Marlize Richter, a researcher from the University of the Witwatersrand said at a discussion hosted by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Cape Town on Monday night.

“I suspect very little of it is done maliciously. The World Cup provides the opportunity to raise awareness of levels of violence in South Africa, specifically on women and children. I don’t think that makes it right to perpetuate myths and unsubstantiated claims.

“I think there is an element of resources in the NGO world and if you can show there is a big threat and that your organisation can provide for it, then it is in your interests to perhaps spice things up.

“I’m not thinking it is a conspiracy theory or someone out there is trying to make money for profit. But I do think there is a sense of getting resources while you can tagging on to the World Cup.”

Chandre Gould, a researcher for the ISS who has authored a book on sex work in Cape Town — Sex Work and Human Trafficking in a South African City — said she had encountered very few cases of human trafficking in her investigation.

‘Figures are false’
She said a widely reported figure of 40 000 sex workers being trafficked into South Africa for the tournament was entirely false.

“That number of 40 000 has no basis in fact. In the World Cup in Germany and the Olympics in Athens no increase in trafficking was found. There is no reason to believe South Africa will be any different from Germany or Athens.

“So we are not anticipating that we will see a dramatic change in circumstances.”

She said very little research had been done on human trafficking. In Cape Town she found only a handful of cases of women who had been trafficked.

“We determined a point-in-time estimate of the number of sex workers — 964 in brothels and 245 on the street — a total of 1 209.

This means that 0.03% of the population of Cape Town works in the industry.

“Our evidence suggests that while sex workers are often subject to exploitative or abusive working conditions, very few are forced to sell sex. Most take up the work because it is a rational choice given its earning potential.”

Another ISS researcher, Gareth Newham, said if policy makers wanted to deal with the problem they had to have proper research available.

“It is not that these things are not happening, but to deal with the problem we have proper information available.” — Sapa