London ~ Thursday, 3 June 2010
Inside South Africa's brothels: the World Cup and the sex trade
By Matilda Battersby
VSO volunteer Ellen Crabtree, 50, from the UK, is working to strengthen the organisational direction and management at RHRU (Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit) of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ellen is working with former and current sex workers to add her management experience to income generation projects to help the women out of sex work. This includes a community care centre and beauty centre called 'The Beauty Shack'. RHRU also run a mobile clinic that visits brothels in Hillbrow, Johannesburg to offer free condoms and STI checks to sex workers (SO/Simon Rawles)
The World Cup in South Africa will attract more than just the 2.2 million tourists who have bought match tickets. Up to 100,000 prostitutes will enter the region this summer, an influx which will swell an already out of control industry where an estimated 50 per cent of sex workers are infected with HIV.
With the World Cup about to exacerbate this problem, the regulation and legalisation of which has been much discussed in the papers and politics in the last 12 months, The Independent Online spoke to Ellen Crabtree, 50, from Edinburgh, a VSO volunteer who has been helping sex workers in the region to develop alternative sources of income.
A former marketing manager for Scottish Widows, Crabtree says she “had a great lifestyle” but was “helping rich people get richer.” Since swapping her high flying lifestyle and moving to Johannesburg 18 months ago she has worked with current and former sex workers helping them to develop their literacy and IT skills, in particular helping 6 former prostitutes train as beauticians.
"A combination of arrogance and altruism led me to think maybe I could make a difference,” she says. Now working within the Special Services and Community Engagement team, with particular focus on the Community Care Centre, Crabtree is helping to offer meaningful and effective support for people infected and affected by HIV, whether it be helping to secure migrant documentation, legal consultation for vulnerable people.
Get a unique glimpse of life inside a South African brothel by looking at Crabtree's picture diary, see HERE