Prostitution &Trafficking Home

prostitution Prostitution is a hazardous occupation, harmful to the prostitute and her client as well as their families and society. Its negative social effects also include the cost of disease and injuries to which prostitution gives rise. In rape, the security of a woman’s person is assaulted and stolen: in prostitution, it is assaulted, stolen and sold. Women in prostitution not only began poor, they are systematically kept poor by pimps who take the lion’s share of what they earn. Survivors of prostitution often report that each act of prostitution felt like a rape. In order to endure the multiple invasions of their bodies, women use drugs and alcohol to numb the assaults to their dignity and bodily integrity. Soon there remains no integrity and certainly no dignity. Eventually, the women’s physical and emotional health is destroyed

There are numerous reasons why people become involved in prostitution. Many have been affected by a weakening economy, experienced change or loss of households, are coerced by parents/”pimps” or simply because they have low self esteem. It has been estimated that between 28,000 and 30,000 of South Africa’s prostitutes are under the age of 18. Also, about half the child prostitutes are between 10 and 14 years of age and the other half between 15 and 18.3. Their lives are ruled by “pimps” and gangs who often take their money in exchange for protection, food or drugs.

Prostitutes are notorious for not practicing safe sex. In addition, they are often victims of rape and assaults and are at a constant risk of acquiring and spreading HIV/AIDS and other infectious sexually transmitted diseases. Legalisation of prostitution will not end abuse; it will make abuse legal. Legalisation only allows criminals and members of organized crime rings to become legitimate businessmen and work hand-in-hand with the state in marketing women’s bodies. Prostitution is ultimately sexual slavery. Like all forms of slavery, the goal should be to eliminate it, not to make it legal so that it is  more controlled.

Doctors for Life (DFL) oppose the legalisation of prostitution, but we support the care and restoration of prostitutes to a life that allows them to be safe and restores their dignity. DFL is committed to helping those who are entrapped by prostitution. DFL has counselling and rehabilitation available for those bound by this lifestyle and profession. There is freedom from prostitution and a new life awaits you.

Ramaphosa’s regressive prostitution statement

Doctors For Life International (DFL) is extremely distraught about statements made by the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on the 12 of March in connection with the provision of condoms to women caught up in prostitution in order to bring respect and dignity to them and protect their human rights.

In the first place DFL does not see it as the duty or the right of individual members of government to reprimand the police for maintaining law and order. That kind of behaviour would fit in with an autocratic form of government, something of which South Africans have become extremely aware of recently.

We would also encourage Mr Ramaphosa to consult with all role players that will represent the whole spectrum of opinions on the matter, before starting to make public statements that create the impression of nullifying existing legislation and create the impression that he is being led by the nose by one or two pressure groups. Keep in mind that The Constitutional Court in S v Jordan and Others in 2002 (6) SA 642 decided that the criminalization of prostitution does not amount to unfair discrimination. It would seem that Mr. Ramaphosa does not trust the findings of the constitutional court.

Policy shapers would do well to keep in mind that there are certain “rights” that no decent society would allow individuals to exercise e.g. the right to sell yourself into slavery or the right to sell your organs. The reason being that we do not want to create a society where the poor can be accused of not having tried their best to get out of poverty because they have not yet sold themselves or any of their organs.

No wonder, Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen stated: “Almost five years after the lifting of the brothel ban, we have to acknowledge that the aims of the law have not been reached.” Instead we find ourselves “in the midst of modern slavery”.

In the past 10 years that DFL have been helping women to exit prostitution and provide them with skills training, we have found the reality of prostitution to be very different from the picture Mr Ramaphosa may have. Poverty is by far the most common cause why girls from rural areas are flocking to the cities and selling themselves to ruthless pimps and madams and clients who exploit them. Starting off with R500 per client and soon selling themselves for R10 per client. Once a woman has reached that point they will do anything to make money because they have no other skill and are often addicted to drugs. A client just need to offer R20 for unprotected sex and they will jump for it even if they have a dozen condoms in their pockets. Most of these girls anyway know by then exactly at which filling stations or other public places they can get access to free condoms.

PTSD is the most serious mental disorder that psychologists can measure in a human. Numerous studies have come out over the last few decades that demonstrate a relationship between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and prostitution. The prevalence off PTSD furthermore remains consistently between 60% and 86% whether prostitution is practiced in a legal or illegal setting, with Columbia, one of the countries where it is legal, leading the pack at 86%. (Compare this to the prevalence amongst war veterans of maximum 67%)

Linda Fairstein, a Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor, mentioned that studies characterize the violence that emanates from prostitution as “brutal, extreme, common, stunning, normative, and ever-present…”. Indeed, physical and sexual violence across prostitution types is pervasive—whether one is prostituting in Chennai or Chicago, indoors or outdoors, for drugs or to pay the rent, on a street corner, in a car, back alley, brothel, massage parlour, or strip club—both the threat of, as well as actual violence, permeate everyday existence in the zone.

As long as this violence is contained within the context of the sex trade, where women and other prostituting persons become public sexual property, their trauma is commonly and conveniently reduced to an “occupational health issue” or “workplace violence.” This is a cruel and unjust euphemism.

Imagine what would happen if 25%, 50%, or 89% of the females working in schools, financial or medical institutions, at your local supermarket, or favourite restaurant were subject to the same kinds of violence. Would the world tolerate the phenomenon, tell women that the violence was merely an on-the job hazard, describe their rape as theft of their sexual services or thrust the responsibility for the violence on them by coaching them on a myriad of methods to reduce the risk of violence? Such a response is unimaginable for women outside the zone of prostitution, but for women and others inside the commercial sex trade such perversity is the stuff of daily life.

Without question, the vast majority of physical and sexual violence inflicted on those in the sex trade is perpetrated by those purchasing persons for sex— the sex buyers. While sex buyers may be the principle perpetrators of this savagery, in many cases their exercise of violence is given license by institutions, societies, and governments that establish and endorse various regimes of legal and decriminalized prostitution.

Full decriminalization of prostitution, in which the laws regulating the activities of pimps, sex buyers and sellers are eliminated, represents the most egregious and shocking response to the commercial sex trade. Such an approach transforms pimps into entrepreneurs and sex buyers into mere customers. While decriminalization may redefine deviant and criminal behaviour, it is incapable of transforming pimps into caring individuals who have the best interests of prostituting persons at heart, or metamorphosing sex buyers into sensitive, thoughtful, and giving sexual partners. Decriminalization of prostitution is powerless to change the essential, exploitive nature of commercial sex, and tragically grants it free rein.

Legalizing sex work as a “job” or a “business” only benefits brothel owners and customers seeking sex making their work easier and granting them a veneer of legitimacy. It will give them “full license” to condone violence, sexual abuse — including rape — and verbal abuse that is commonly perpetuated on vulnerable people. Many women’s rights advocates propose instead a stiffening of penalties for johns and pimps.

One wonders whether the handing out of condoms to women caught up in the modern day slavery of prostitution might not be compared to providing slaves with light-weight chains in order to diminish the harm caused by their heavy metal chains. Would it not be more appropriate to get to the condom issue after having dealt thoroughly with the hundreds of thousands of poor rural girls being trafficked daily for sex and having commended and encouraged the police to more vigorously enforce the existing legislation or brought in heavier fines for pimps, madams and clients that are buying sex from these vulnerable girls.


Doctors For Life International is an association of more than 1600 specialists and medical doctors. Doctors For Life endeavors to promote public health by upholding sound science in the medical profession. For more information, please visit

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