South Africa: 32 teams and 40,000 prostitutes for 2010 FIFA World Cup?

If you are going to South Africa to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup, you should probably be prepared to meet 40,000 prostitutes from around the world who are expected to flock to South Africa…well, that is if you believe in rumours!

Street art in Cape Town, South Africa by candinski on Flickr (2005)

An article that appears on Hindustan Times website reads,

Believe it or not, atleast 40K prostitutes from around the world are making their way to South Africa hoping to make a fortune from soccer fans at the World Cup that kicks off next month, suggest reports.

Savious Kwinika of Nehand Radio writes about Zimbabwe's sex workers moving to South Africa as the World Cup draws near:

Zimbabwe’s sex workers are deserting their country for greener pastures in South Africa as the World Cup 2010 draws nearer, causing human rights and church groups worldwide to call for measures to curb human trafficking and prostitution. But the economic promise offered by the arrival of some 500,000 World Cup foreign fans is already attracting impoverished workers.

Somewhere in the post the magic figure appears:

The event is no stranger to the sex trade. The 2006 World Cup in Germany, where brothels and prostitution is legalized, brought on an additional influx of an estimated 40,000 sex workers – plus a lot of criticism from rights groups. South Africa’s Central Drug Central Authority has also estimated that 40,000 sex workers will come to Johannesburg for the 2010 World Cup, though the agency gives no reasoning for this figure.

Another similar story (with another magic figure – a billion comdoms!) reads, South Africa World Cup: A Billion Condoms And 40,000 Sex Workers:

Arguably, the soccer World Cup is to the sex industry what the holiday season is to candy shops. A temporary surge of excited people feeling collectively festive, willing to pay for a bit of extra indulgence.

South Africa's Drug Central Authority estimates 40,000 sex workers will trickle in for the event from as far as Russia, the Congo and Nigeria to cater to the wide taste spectrum of some 400,000, mostly male, visitors and their apres-soccer needs.

Brett Davidson, a blogger and independent media consultant, separates facts from fiction. Apparently, the figure (40,000 prostitutes) is a complete fabrication. It is a lie:

I have been puzzled and annoyed by the ongoing repetition in our media, that 40 000 ‘prostitutes’ are set to be trafficked into South Africa ahead of the World Cup.

This figure is continually repeated (and in one instance, an anti-trafficking video featuring several South African soapie stars, inflated further to 100 000). This despite its being a complete fabrication, with no basis in fact, and no evidence available to substantiate it.

Brett says that fabricated figures were also thrown around ahead of the last World Cup in Germany:

The exact same claims were made ahead of the World Cup in Germany — but afterwards, an investigation by the Council of the European Union (documents 5006/1/07 and 5008/7) found a grand total of just 5 cases of trafficking — yes, just 5.

These fabricated figures have doubled every few years, we are told:

The online publication Spiked, drew attention to this, way back in February 2007. This week, Spiked again takes a look at the ongoing circulation of these nonsense stories. Fascinatingly, the author, Brendan O’Neill, looks at how the imagined numbers have doubled every few years — starting with estimates of 10 000 sex slaves for the Australian Olympics, then 20 000 in Athens in 2004, 40 000 in Germany in 2006, and on to South Africa (80 000 anyone?).

But wait…where do the figures come from?:

So where do the figures come from? Well, let’s look at what exactly David Bayever, the CDA deputy chair is actually supposed to have said. As reported by IOL, Bayever provides no evidence for this figure and indicates that he is passing on unubstantiated, second hand information. He says the CDA had been warned by the Durban Municipality of the possibility of huge inflows: “Someone informed the Durban municipality,” he says, “They got wind of it.” So — it’s not the CDA issuing these figures, not even Durban municipality. It’s just something somebody got wind of, and passed on. But now that Bayever has mentioned the 40 000, in subsequent reports suddenly it’s the authority of CDA that is now quoted as being the source of these figures.

Even more interestingly, the rumours speculate that these women are likely to be imported from Eastern Europe. Now surely any journalist or any reader with half a brain should realise this is nonsense. Given the price of sex on the streets of Hillbrow, how is any trafficker going to make a profit, after having to pay at great expense to import thousands of women covertly from Eastern Europe?

His conclusion:

It places a huge burden on those of us who do have access to accurate and rigorous research, to ensure that we get our messages out clearly and effectively, so that public policy is not distorted by undiluted mis-information.

In the case of sex work, the unfounded hysteria about trafficking is diverting attention from the real issue — the need to ensure that the human rights, health and safety of sex workers in South Africa, and indeed in our neighbouring countries, are respected and protected.

Chandré Gould addresses the same issue in his article posted at TheAfrica.Org titled Human Trafficking and the World Cup: How big is the threat?:

Before the 2006 World Cup in Germany similar fears existed that human trafficking would massively increase during the event and it would be spurred by the demand by fans for paid sex. The same concerns emerged before the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Indeed, just as we have seen in South Africa, media reports in Germany during 2006 claimed that they would see an increase of 40 000 prostitutes of whom a large percentage would have been trafficked.

Yet, an investigation by the International Organisation for Migration shortly after the 2006 event found that there was no increase in human trafficking during the World Cup and that the estimates of 40 000 sex workers were “unfounded” and “unrealistic”. Indeed, the report (of September 2006) concludes that there is no credible data to link trafficking [for sexual exploitation] and major events. Similarly, neither the IOM nor the Greek police noted cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation during the Olympic Games. Indeed, the four victims of trafficking that the IOM assisted in Greece in 2004 did not occur during the sporting event.

There are reasons why there was no increase in human trafficking/prostitution during in past sporting events:

There were several reasons offered in the IOM report as to why there was no increase in trafficking during the month-long German World Cup. On the one hand, NGO and police experts who were interviewed argued that the measures put in place, including awareness raising campaigns and increased law enforcement during the event might have played a role in preventing trafficking. On the other hand, the demand for sexual services was much lower than had been expected. This was explained by the fact that fans typically attended the world cup in family groups thus reducing the opportunity for men to purchase sexual services. Furthermore, most fans were travelling on restricted budgets and so there was not extra cash for buying sex. It was also argued that due to the short duration of the World Cup there was little chance that traffickers would be able to realise a return on their investment, given the costs involved in bringing victims across borders and keeping them in bondage.

What about a billlion condomns? Bloggers haven't discussed this one yet.


  • I am not the author of this excellent post! Sorry

  • Sorry about that, it’s actually the second time your name shows up on a post by technical error (your name shows up at the top of the alphabetic author list). Investigating!

  • The numbers of sex workers may be exaggerated and visitors to South Africa may well take adequate precautions if they do wish to engage in sex while there. But visitors may face other dangers. In a country like South Africa, which has very high HIV prevalence, people would also be well advised to avoid tattoo parlours, places that provide cosmetic services, such as hairdressers, medical facilities and any other place where accidental blood exposure could give rise to infection with HIV, hepatitis B or C or any other blood borne infection.

    Sexual transmission of HIV is not particularly efficient and people in Western countries still have low HIV prevalence, despite taking as many risks as those in African countries. But blood transmission is very efficient and those warning visitors of the dangers should concentrate on them if they are really worried about the spread of HIV.

  • I think we should be more sensetive and kind to the Sex Workers. Imagine, there are lots of money would be wasted by fun, by drinks, by shampen. But, if some Sex Workers (Who have been sex workers because they are poor) take some advantages; i think the Football Arrangement Authority will not have any problems at all.

  • […] that have used this “statistic” but can’t corroborate it; Global Voices likewise has a post flagging this problematic bit of reporting. Laura Agustín, author of the book Sex At the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets, and the Rescue […]

  • […] that have used this “statistic” but can’t corroborate it; Global Voices likewise has a post flagging this problematic bit of reporting. Laura Agustín, author of the book Sex At the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets, and the Rescue […]

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