Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Rough World Cup for Working Girls?

A story in the Johannesburg Times suggests it will be a tough World Cup for prostitutes. Especially after they seemed to have thought, not long ago, that the month-long event would be a financial windfall for them.

What has soured them on their World Cup fortunes?

--The significant drop in expected foreign visitors, from early projections. All those foreigners scared off by price-gouging airlines and hoteliers ... will impact the working girl's bottom line, they seem to believe.

--A growing international realization that South Africa is the epicenter of Aids, with more cases -- 5.7 million -- than any country in the world. That is, more than 10 percent of a population of some 50 million are HIV-positive. That can have a chilling effect on the sex trade, prostitutes told the newspaper.

--South Africa's unwillingness to designate certain zones for the sex trade, as Germany apparently did in 2006. That leaves many prostitutes on the street, where they believe they are more likely to be victimized by violence or robbery. South Africa already is infamous for its crime.

--The fear that recent arrivals from other African countries will drive down prices. Apparently, fears of a massive invasion of sex workers from around the continent have not been borne out, but enough desperate women from nearby countries are trickling in to change the sex-trade dynamic. And not in a good way, economically, for South Africa's native working girls.

South Africa, like many countries, has no legal prostitution. Note the quote from a World Cup official: "We can't give them shelter because we can't be part of a crime. ... We can't be a banana republic that creates laws for an event for one month."

A World Cup is such an enormous event that it has ramifications on all social strata of a society. Even (especially?) on those near the bottom.

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