Sex trade boom in Kenilworth

Residents say sex workers in Harfield Road had become a regular feature.

There have been complaints that Harfield Road, one Kenilworth’s main thoroughfares has become home to a burgeoning sex trade.

According to residents, prostitution has increased over the years, with more than 10 women believed to be offering their services daily, in broad daylight on most occasions.

AdrianScheepersdrives through Harfield Road daily and says there are plenty of new faces popping up.

“The residents around here always knew about women working these streets, but it was never so much,” she said.

“Now you have women hiding among the trees, sitting on the sidewalks and coming from all directions, selling themselves in the most disgusting ways,” he said.

Mr Scheepers has, in the past, complained to the City of Cape Town about the ongoing activities, but said that even if the sex workers were removed, they often returned the same day or the following day.

“If these women are arrested and charged, they will either move to a different area or stop with this prostitution stuff. One understands some of them do not have much of a choice and do this to support their families, but it’s not right and it needs to stop,” Mr Scheepers said.

Alison Boshof said the sex workers in Harfield Road had become a “regular feature” and added: “It is a problem that really affects me. It has been happening for the past two years since building started on a development of flats close to Harfield station.”

She said between one to six sex workers solicit from her corner, which cannot be identified for safety reasons. “Law enforcement and police move them on at my request, but in most cases they are back within the hour. I am told they on occasion receive fines but don’t appear in court. They talk loudly as they want to attract attention – sometimes it is uncomfortable to sit on my porch because of the sheer volume of voices,” she said.

Ms Boshof said she had had little help from ward councillor Ian Iverson, who referred her to the police, saying it was their responsibility.

Mr Iversen told the Tatler he was well aware of the concerns, even having met Ms Boshof before to discuss the issue surrounding the increasing number of sex workers in the area. “I have told Ms Boshoff on many occasions that I am a City councillor and the issue of prostitutes is really a national criminal matter. The SAPS needs to take action against prostitutes and arrange for them to be charged. I would be surprised that five prostitutes have been in court during the past year,” he said.

“I have told Ms Boshoff that I have been to SAPS Claremont to ask them to increase patrols in the area. They have agreed but make the point that if people are robbed, assaulted, there are traffic accidents and so on, then those incidents will take preference over dealing with prostitutes,” Mr Iversen said.

Mr Iversen called on the community to initiate a campaign placing the spotlight on the men picking up the women instead of just the sex workers operating in the area.

“Residents should note down the vehicle registration numbers, the make of the car and the time of the visit and then forward it to their local crime watch so that the word can get out that a suspicious car was in the area,” he said.

The councillor was previously involved in community initiatives which saw Kenilworth residents putting up posters with messages such as: “Does your wife know?”, “What would your kids say?” and “Does your boss know what you are doing?”

He said: “This type of proactive approach helps and they, as well as the clients, moved off. I feel that far too much focus is put on the prostitutes and
virtually nothing on their clients.”

According to a 2013 study there are, conservatively, 153 000 sex workers in the country and more than 7 500 sex workers in Cape Town. Most sex workers are women, 4% are trans women and 5% are men.

Sally-Jean Shackleton, director for the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task force (Sweat), said they had tackled some issues around sex workers in the Harfield Road area, and she said the organisation assisted them with a variety of services to address their health and human rights needs.

“Sex workers who experience human rights abuses are offered legal advice and assistance. They can call a legal advice help line, or a toll free general help line to access assistance,” she said.

A 2015 study, which included Cape Town, found half of the sex workers who took part reported being physically assaulted and one in five said they had been sexually assaulted.

Sweat has two areas of focus: its Sex Worker Empowerment and Enabling Environment programme (SWEEEP), creates an enabling environment for service delivery through the mobilisation of sex workers to demand services; and its Advocacy and Law Reform Programme (ALRP), reduce violence, improves access to rights and to enables sex workers to claim their rights through the decriminalisation of sex work and policy reform.

Claremont police could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.