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Sender: o-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 97 19:23:38 CST
From: rich@pencil.UTC.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Cape Town Children Selling Themselves To Survive
Article: 8214

/** labr.global: 278.0 **/
** Topic: Cape Town Children Selling Themselves To Survive **
** Written 5:36 AM Mar 28, 1997 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **
From: Institute for Global Communications <labornews@igc.apc.org>
Subject: Cape Town Children Selling Themselves To Survive

Struggling to survive: At least a quarter of Cape Town's 2000 street children are selling themselves

By Gustav Thiel, Electronic Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)
21 March 1997

It's better than begging, says a street child Current police estimates are that at least a quarter of Cape Town's 2 000 street children are selling themselves. Gustav Thiel reports

'MAN, I want to be a soccer hero one is not so bad. It won't last forever."

Richard is 13. He speaks softly, and fiddles with his baseball cap. It's 1.30 on a Sunday morning, near Cape Town's Waterfront. As he talks a steady stream of cars passes by, middle-aged men mostly, driving slowly. Earlier that evening, one pulled over. Richard offered him oral sex for R7. The sale went through. He thinks nothing of it: "Blowjobs are where most of my money comes from."

The road he works, the seafront stretch linking the city to Sea Point, has always been well known for its prostitutes. But the number of children working this stretch has risen sharply in recent years. Current police estimates are that at least a quarter of Cape Town's 2 000 street children are selling themselves.

"The kids have no say in what they do because they are controlled by pimps," says David Fortune, director of Streets, an advocacy group for street children.

"It is quite obvious that a young kid who is forced to perform sex will suffer enormous emotional scars."

Richard says he got into the trade because he had nowhere else to go and no other source of income. "I do not even know my mother," he says. He reckons at least 20 of his friends on the streets do what he does. Leroy, who is 16, stands nearby. He nods agreement.

Richard shies away when the conversation turns to pimps - "I must go and find work now," he says. Leroy steps in. He says Richard's pimp disciplines Richard "if he steps out of line", by burning him with cigarettes. "I'm used to it." he says. "Pimps don't scare me anymore."

He and Richard are told to use a condom, told to take older men as clients, but beyond that the rules of their game are that the customers are always right and must get what they ask for. "I will do anything for money," Leroy adds. "For sex I charge a full R50." But of that R50, he only gets R10. His pimp gets the rest. "It's far better than begging," he says.

The station commander at Sea Point police station, Superintendent Denise Basson, says her officers are well aware of what is happening down on the seafront road.

"But we only act when we receive complaints from the public," she adds. "In the last three months we have received almost none. The public seems to have become far more tolerant."

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