A RESEARCHER on organised crime has warned that the legalisation of prostitution for the 2010 Soccer World Cup could lead to a boom in human trafficking and the commercial sex industry such as that seen in Germany, if it is not regulated.
With the World Cup looming nearer, discussions about the decriminalisation of prostitution have intensified, supported by advocacy groups.
An international conference on prostitution and trafficking, specific to the 2010 Soccer World Cup, is to be held in East London next month to discuss the problem.
Shanaaz Parker, a researcher for the organised crime and money laundering programme of the Institute of Security Studies, said on Friday the legalisation of prostitution in Australia, Germany and the Netherlands was not a decision taken lightly, but in the case of the latter two countries human trafficking has increased.
Discussions about the legalisation of prostitution have been promoted by advocacy groups such as the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force , which believe it would prevent unnecessary arrests of sex workers and improve conditions in the sector.
“The argument is that the World Cup will push up the demand for sex workers and the services they provide, so we should simply decriminalise this form of work and give the sex industry some dignity,” Parker said.
“But even then, if sex work is recognised as a profession, there is no guarantees that the women (or men) engaged in it will be treated with respect and that human trafficking in terms of the commercial sex industry will decrease. On the contrary, Germany and the Netherlands have seen an expansion of human trafficking and commercial sex industries during its legislation.”
The situation is of particular concern as SA had been identified as a transit destination for human trafficking.
Parker said that the Sexual Offences Act and the Prevention of Organised Crime Act are used to combat human trafficking. “New legislation would have to be drawn up very strategically to separate the sex trade from human trafficking,” she said.
Legalisation would also not necessarily help to reduce HIV/AIDS, Parker said.
“In Germany sex workers are able to join unions and access health insurance. However, even after four years of legislation, many sex workers still prefer not to register, fearing stigmatisation,” she said.