HazelThompson's Blog

Sex Trafficking Sweden
August 30, 2013, 4:36 pm
Filed under: Sex Trafficking Sweden

Trafficking In Sweden

‘The Unspoken Secret’

By Hazel Thompson

Magdalena’s story

As a storm gathers over the skies over Stockholm, a women in her thirties called ‘Magdalena’ * arrives at a small church hall, with her 77 year old friend Elise.
Magdalena appears a little nervous but very eager to sit down and start sharing her story of how she was sexually exploited as a child around Sweden.  She is dressed in a pristinely white hooded sports top and black leggings, with her hair dyed cherry red and beautifully manicured nails. There is a real sense of strength and defiance about her as she introduces herself and looks at you directly in your eyes. Even so, Elise sits protectively next her as we gather around a small table with tea & coffee in the corner of the room. Magdalena describes Elise as her adopted grandmother and you can see the close bond between them. Elise was also sexually exploited and now helps other women through an outreach programme at Clara Church in Stockholm.  She was the first person to really understand and listen to Magdalena. For year’s Magdalena has fallen through the gaps in the Swedish system and her cry’s for help have fallen on deaf ears.

As soon as we sit down and before we have time to pour out the tea, Magdalena starts to open up and launches into talking about her childhood without any prompting.
There is a real urgency in her voice and she talks quickly, as if her moment to be heard might suddenly end.

Magdalena is from a very little town in the north of Sweden.
She describes it as a typical Swedish town where everyone knows each other and each other’s business.  From the outside she says her family appeared to be a normal Swedish family. Her mother worked as a carer in an old people’s home and the family lived in a nice house that her mum kept spotlessly clean. But behind closed doors, there was a hidden secret.

Both her parents were addicts and her father separated from her mother when she was small. So Magdalena was left in the sole care of her alcoholic & pill addicted mother. When she was about 2-3 years old, her earliest memories are of many different men visiting their home on a daily basis. While her mother was high or drunk in the front room, Magdalena was taken by these men into the bedroom, where she was sexually abused and raped. Her mother would sell her to these men, so to earn an extra income, to feed the addictions controlling her life.  The authorities first picked it up, when the teachers at her day care noticed that Magdalena had caught ‘crabs’ when they changed her nappy and they called social services.

Magdalena was instantly taken into care, but after just a few weeks was returned to her mother, after she had convinced them she was not an addict, working a good job and keeping a clean house. But her mother continued to sell her to men for sex and Magdalena continued to suffer in silence. There was even an instance when she was about 7-8 years old that her mother sold her to a group of men who held her captive for days. The traumatic memory of this event only re serviced in Magdalena’s conscience in recent years during a counselling session.  It was so horrific that her mind buried the memory. Curious to check if what she remembered was true, Magdalena contacted the police to check her records and they confirmed she was kidnapped as a child.

With the authorities not removing her from the abusive environment and with the entire trauma suffered from when she was a few years old.  By the time Magdalena was eleven years old she had become an addict herself, drinking, sniffing glue and taking anfetimines to numb the pain and traumatic memories.  But it was when Magdalena was eleven years old she thought her luck had changed.  She had met this wonderful 45 year old man who was kind to her and took her under his wing.

‘’ He was very nice to me and I became fond of him, I saw him as a father to me. I trusted him, I felt secure and safe with him. He would buy me earrings, clothes and take care of me.’’

But her trust was quickly abused and he started selling her to other men for sex.
He would pick Magdalena up from her home and drive her from town to town, only stopping at hotels where other men would pay to sexually abuse her. She was an easy target for a pimp to traffic and exploit within Sweden.  Neglected by her family, this man was able to control her by just showing her a little bit attention and love.

‘’These men are good at finding girls like me.  They know what to look for.
They see we are broken’’

The man also filmed and photographed Magdalena being abused and sold these images in child porn movies abroad in Germany. During all this time she was still living with her mother and being they lived in a small town, Magdalena says many people were aware what was happening, her mother, teachers, neighbours, even the social worker saw this man pick her up from the house one time.  But know one dared to question or confront the truth and just passed a blind eye, allowing the abuse to continue undisturbed for a number of years.

The pimp only stopped selling Magdalena when he got caught by the police selling the child pornography movies. He was prosecuted for producing and selling child porn, but once again no specialised help was offered to this teenage girl, already severely damaged by years of abuse.

At 18 years old, one of Magdalena’s former teachers helped her get work in a kitchen and she started to have independence and rebuild her life.  At work she fell in love with one of the other staff members, they became a couple and she moved into his parent’s house. She smiles as she talks about this season in her life and describes how she received her first Christmas present from her boyfriend, as with her family she never was given a present as Christmas was just about drinking. During this time with her boyfriend she got clean from drink & drugs and Magdalena started to experience real happiness and a stable home life for the first time. But due to her never getting proper counselling or help for the trauma of being sexually exploited as a child, her past life soon caught up with her.
After the misfortune of the miscarriage of two pregnancies, Magdalena couldn’t handle the emotional pain, left her boyfriend, returned home to her mum and turned to drink and drugs again for comfort.

Life then turned again for the worse. One night, Magdalena ended up stabbing her mum’s violent boyfriend while trying to protect her mum during a big fight where he held her captive. Magdalena ended up serving time in Prison, where she got some proper counselling and was able to get clean of her addictions again.   In prison she also met many other women who had had similar experiences to her, who had also been sexual exploited or sold for sex, as children and she no longer felt alone in her experiences.

After serving her prison sentence, Magdalena found it hard coming back into normal society and the roller coaster of trauma continued in her life. She soon got into another abusive relationship, with a man who used her experiences of being prostituted against her.  He would violently beat her and tell people about her past life. Over the next few years she finds a job, but has a child with her boyfriend and eventually marries him, staying in the abusive cycle she is so familiar with since a child.  Magdalena also starts taking drugs again, and occasionally prostitutes herself to pay for her addiction. She fall’s pregnant for a second time, but when her baby is born it is clear that the child is not her husband as her new baby girl is black. Magdalena had fallen pregnant by one of the men she sold herself to pay for her drug addiction. Her husband became enraged that she had been unfaithful, threatening her and her new babies life. Magdalena fled her marital home with the children, leaving everything they owned behind. Returning to her mother’s home in the small town she grew up in and worried about her parenting skills with her addictions and in need for specialized counselling for the abuse, she turns to the social services for help.  But over the next few years Magdalena doesn’t get the help she needs and she struggles. Once again her addictions spiral out of control and the social services take her children into care.  A situation that could have been prevented if they listened to her cries for help. With all the trauma of her childhood and loosing her own children deeply affecting her, Magdalena repeatedly goes in and out of prison due to getting into fights on the street. During all this time her two daughters are in foster care, but she is able to keep contact with them over the phone.

One day she gets a phone call from her eldest daughter, who was about 8 years old at the time, telling her that the boys in the foster care home were touching and sexually abusing her. Magdalena instantly calls the social services for them to remove and help her daughter, she was going crazy that she couldn’t help her own child and that it wasn’t safe for them in foster care.   She felt like she did as a child, that her desperate cry’s for help were falling on deaf ears. As she describes what happened, Magdalena starts to talk really fast and it’s hard to keep up with the details of events. But you can still hear the raw desperation in her voice that she couldn’t protect her own child and was helpless while knowing her own daughter was going through the same pain she did, a mother’s worse nightmare. The situation does eventually get investigated and the abuse was found to be true. But four years later Magdalena says her daughter has not received the specialised counselling she needs and the social workers prefer to pretend the abuse never happened.

When I ask whether she is now getting proper counselling for herself she tells me;

‘’I feel judged by the social services; they have labelled and stigmatised me by my past, by the actions of my mother. They are not giving me a chance or helping me. I just want them to let me prove I am good mother’’

She is now fighting to get her children back.  Elise breaks in the conversation and explains that this is a common story for Swedish women who have been sexually exploited, that they fall through the cracks in the system and the social services lets them down.  Magdalena’s strength of character to keep going on is astonishing.
She explains though ‘I can’t cry, when I feel it comes, I close it in’
It’s clear that meeting Elise and getting help from the Clara church has really been a turning point for Magdalena. She now has a community around her that understands what she went through as a child and is helping her rebuild her life again.

The girls on the street

On a Friday light summer’s eve, I venture out with Elise and her team to witness first hand their outreach work to the girls, similar to Magdalena who are prostituted on the streets of Stockholm. At 8’o clock we walk up through the streets to Malmsvillnadsqatan street. We stop by the metro station exit and set up a little stand with coffee & tea, sandwiches, clothes and educational material for the women Elise welcomes each week.

Elise, aged 77 years old, has been reaching out to women on this street every Friday night until 2-3am for the last 15 years.  She is very focused and particular how she sets up the area, stating that everything must be perfect for ‘her girls’.  Elise is currently reaching out to about 40 different women on the street. She is former prostitute herself, who was sexually exploited by a family friend since the age of 5. Her life’s passion is to now help other girls who are sexually exploited. She says that 99% of the girls she works with on the street are exploited first as children, often entering into prostitution aged 14-15 years old. When asked the question if any of the women choose to enter the sex trade on their own accord, Elise becomes very animated and angry at the suggestion.

”Not ONE of the girls choose to be a prostitute, they HATE it.  There is no such thing as a ‘happy whore”. I get crazy when people say girls choose this abuse, especially the Swedish girls.  All the girls I know were abused as children and were tricked in’

Elise’s words seem to echo through the street and quite pioently opposite were we stand talking, the artist Ernst Nordin’s statue of a little girl titled ‘ I don’t want to be a slave’ is facing us. Intensely looking into me, Elise continues to vent her frustration;

‘’Grown up people who can see what’s happening, need to open their mouths and speak up. In Sweden we don’t want to dare see what’s really happening to our own children. I think people are scared to stand up and take responsibility, but the children are hurting, our children.’’

As darkness starts too drawn in, Elise’s girls start to appear out the shadows.
The girls are not just from Sweden, but also from Nigeria, Kenya and Eastern Europe.
Each girl greets Elise with a warm hug and seems so happy to see her. They don’t stay long to chat, as their pimps are hiding in the shadows watching their every move. But you can see the moment of love and care brings comfort and hope to them.  Elise doesn’t fear the pimps, but is aware of their presence. Half way through the evening Elise walks around the area with one her helpers, looking for any new pimps or girls out on the street. She sees the signs of the sex underworld that most people are blinded to.  She shares a story about how one Friday night a few years ago she spotted a van on the corner that men were going in and out of throughout the evening. Inside the van she spotted young girls, so she called the police. When the police came they found six teenagers aged 12 to16 years old who had been trafficked from the Baltic’s by a pimp who was driving the van around from town to town around Sweden. She talks about how fifteen years ago it was only Swedish girls on the street, but over the last eight years there has been an increase of foreign girls each year and the girls are getting younger.

Trafficked into Sweden

Gorel Strand, who is a ‘god man’ and guardian for refugee children in Sweden shares similar stories that she has heard directly from children who have been trafficked and sexual exploited into Sweden.  Children applying for asylum in Sweden are given a ‘god man’ representative by the government, to supply support and care for them during their application. Once they have gained asylum they are then given a guardian to represent them until they are 18 years old. Gorel has been a ‘god man’  & guardian to 260 refugee children aged 8 months to 18 years old in the last 8 years.  She knows that fifteen of those children (boys & girls) were trafficked, which twelve have found to be sexually exploited in Sweden.

Swedish authorities estimate that from reported cases approx 2000 people a year are trafficked from other countries into Sweden, in which 200 of those are children. Its hard to know the exact scale as trafficking is an under ground criminal Activity.  But EPACT Sweden estimate from their reports that approximately 600 women and children are trafficked into Sweden via ferry alone, on an annual basis for sexual exploitation.

When meeting Gorel, she talks about the children she has cared for with a real motherly tenderness.  She carries a number of the children’s passport photos in her purse so that she remembers them and their stories. As she goes through the photos, she shows the faces of boys and girls from countries such as Belarus, Romania, Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda, and Guinea & Tanzania.

Gorel works closely with a number of government homes those children the children who she is ‘god man’ to, are sent to live while seeking and gaining asylum in Sweden.  We visit one home in the countryside, south of Stockholm called ‘Villa Madeline’. This home is for refugee children who have been granted permission to stay in Sweden, but are still under the age of 18 years old or are in full time education.  The home is of a very high living standard and has the atmosphere of a normal family house.

These homes are where trafficked children often stay once the authorities have identified them. They are put together with other boy & girl refugee’s and there is currently no specific care system to meet their individual needs as a victim of trafficking and sexual exploitation.  There is also currently no specialized home in Sweden for children who have been trafficked. Marita Abrahamsson, a social padagog at the home speaks of a great need for specialized homes for trafficked and sexual exploited boys & girls. As when they have had children who have been sexual exploited in their care they have found it hard to get them the right long term help within the social system.

‘’We need a specialized service and separate homes for boys and girls, because the children need special help as they often hurt themselves and its hard to keep them off the streets, as they get drawn back to the streets as they are stuck in patterns. If the girls are all together in one home, they can talk about their experiences and feel normal’’

Marita has worked as a social worker and cared especially for sexually abused children for 11 years before working at Villa Magdalena. She shares,  that as a social worker she has noticed specialized services available for sexually abused victims has decreased within the Swedish Social system. Marita starts to speak of her concern especially for Swedish children who are getting coerced and sexually exploited within Sweden.

‘’There is an unspoken problem that many social workers know is happening, but they don’t ask the question, they don’t want to look’’

The Demand

Paulina, aged 32 is a passionate advocate for children in Sweden who have been sexually abused.  She runs an organisation called ‘Novahuset’ which she started after personally going through the social and justice system after being sexually exploited herself by a boyfriend she met over the Internet when she was 20 years old.  Paulina was tricked by a man she thought loved her and wanted to start a family with her. After raping and threatening her on their first date, he sold her to men in towns all over Sweden for four months, filming and often joining in with the abuse.  Four years later Paulina was able to get justice after finding one of porn movies she was filmed in, that he was still selling over the Internet. This evidence got him the maximum penalty of serving 14 years in prison, where he still remains today.

Ten years later, Paulina now has hundreds of young boys and girls contacting her through her website and organisation for help. They feel safe contacting her, as they know she has experienced similar traumas.  Paulina also talk’s of a great need for a specialised centre for sexual abuse victims and her dream is to see expert help available in every major town around Sweden. She feels quite helpless at times finding the right help for the boys and girls who contact her.

Paulina is also talks about the high demand for sex in Sweden and says that she feels that there are no limits on what people can buy online these days.

‘’ Its not so terrible to buy sex here. Its usually rich people, using the Internet to find girls and boys and its hard for them to get caught. We are very free about porn and sex here’’

Paulina then shares the shocking details about some of the sexual abuse she suffered when she was exploited.

‘’I went through four months of hell, forced to have sex with perverted men in different towns. I was taken to hotels and even people’s homes where I would look at the family photos of wife’s and children of the men raping me. There were no limits on what they would do to me. Strangle, bind, spit, slap…they would do to me what they couldn’t do to their wife’s.  They would rape me in my mouth, anally…everywhere, they would even pee and pooh on me. Really sick things, it was a living nightmare. I was a nobody to them, just a tool’’

Ten years after her experience she is deeply concerned that the demand for abusive sex is increasing from hearing the stories of the children and young adults contacting her.
Being Sweden is one of the few countries that has criminalized the purchase of sex (and the 1st to implement in 1999), targeting the buyer, some experts believe that traffickers and pimps from abroad avoid Sweden as it’s hard to work there. So therefore with comparisonly low numbers (compared to 3rd world nations) of foreign women & children being trafficked into Sweden, is grooming and coercing Swedish children how the demand for child porn and sex with children is being met?

There are no official statistics monitoring over the years if there is an increase in demand within Sweden for child porn and sex with minors.  But in 2010 the National Police board did do a survey on the demand for child porn on the Internet, reporting 50,000 attempts out of Sweden a day on child pornography alone. Helener Karlen of EPACT Sweden says that within Sweden the demand for child porn is really strong and their hotline is receiving over 1000 tips a month from the general public reporting child-porn websites and suspected cases of child trafficking for sexual purposes.

Patrik Cedelof, who is the National Co-ordinator against prostitution and Trafficking
is heading a task force (NMT) that is targeting the demand and identifying victims of trafficking with education programmes, plus creating the best model to assist victims.  Patrik has years of experience working with trafficked and sexually exploited victims within the social services and police and is very passionate about the issue.

‘’ No one volunteers to go into prostitution.  There is always someone doing this, something in the victims background ’.

It was in 2009 that the National method support team against prostitution and human trafficking (NMT) was created. It works in cooperation with parties who have worked the longest with trafficking issues in Sweden.  Such as the police authorities, social services, the Swedish Prosecution Authority and the Swedish migration board. The National method support team against prostitution and human trafficking was created for the Governments national action plan, which finished in December 2010.

A Salvation Army shelter, that is part of the NMT’s resource team called Skogsbo.  Ran one of the pilot trails for 6 beds especially for trafficked victims, from June 1st to December 2010 with NMT for the national action plan. The shelter was only funded for 6 months of the trial and they are currently awaiting for news if a special national centre for trafficking and sexual exploitation will be created and confirmation if funding will continue for the six beds for the trafficked victims. They still have some of the women and children who were in the trial living in the home, so have had to find funding within the salvation army to continue supporting them. Eva Göransson who is the director of the home said:

‘’ The women and children are here now.  We can’t wait for laws and protocol to come into place. We have to act now, do whatever we can do to help’.

Sweden has made great progress in the last few years with the issue of trafficking.
But there is still room for improvement. It is clear a specialized national centre and shelters for women, men and children who have been trafficked and sexual exploited is urgently needed. The greatest progress has been made in identifying trafficked children from abroad and also making the general public to become aware of children from abroad being trafficked into Sweden. But when you suggest that Swedish children and women are being sexually exploited and trafficked within Sweden, the general response is one of disbelief.

The idea of trafficking and sexual exploitation happening within a Westernized European countries boarders is one that people find hard to accept in any European country.  But the real life stories of victims is showing there is growing evidence that it is happening and it’s a problem that needs to be urgently addressed.

There are no official figures for internal trafficking in Sweden and there is little written about the issue in the National Police reports. It appears to be an issue that the Swedish authorities and general public are finding hard to acknowledge. An ‘unspoken’ secret that needs to be urgently addressed for the sake of the Swedish children, who are suffering in silence and are becoming easy prey to those who wish to exploit them.  As written on the Ernst statue of the little girl, surely the cry of the children is ‘ I don’t want to be a slave’.

Sex Trafficking in South Africa
August 30, 2013, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Sex Trafficking South Africa


The Girl with the Number 7 Football Shirt

As the countdown to the football fest in South Africa has begun, a darker more horrible game is taking place next to the shiny new stadiums. The sex industry is gearing up for a World Cup of  its own and there are very few people to stop it.

By Hazel Thompson

We enter the building quickly, with just the torch lights of the team guiding us through the blackened alleyway to the entrances of the apartments. The gangs who are running this place have purposely removed lighting from the majority of the building, so that neighbors cannot see what is going on.  But we are about to find out. A female officer knocks firmly on a boarded door, with the whole team right behind her. The members of the Vice Squad carry handguns, but choose in most circumstances not to wear body armor, so to not escalate situations.   A tall Nigerian man stands back looking bemused as the team enters the building they suspect is being used as a brothel in the Brooklyn neighborhood a few minute´s walk away from the sex tourism centre of Koeberg Road. Straight away each member of the team spread out, like a coordinated military unit, their torch light moving around the rooms, looking for evidence like search lights hunting for bombers in London skies during the blitz. The flashes of light expose the dilapidated rooms. In the kitchen an officer is searching a soiled sofa for evidence.  Large pieces of paint are peeling off the moldy ceiling and there is a gaping hole where a stove must once have been.  The smell of the place hits the officers as they scramble in to the house. The team is navigating around vomit and faeces on the floors, so filthy that the surfaces appears to move in the shadows, the piles of rotting rubbish surrounding the building adds to the stench.

In the only room with a light bulb,  Assistant Chief of the vice squad Neil Arendse, finds a large box of condoms.  And then, there she is.

A young girl in a bright green and red striped football sweatshirt with the number 7 on the back, slumped over at the end of a single bed.  She seems confused and scared. Her movements are slow as if she has been drugged.  Operational officer of the Vice Squad, Thomas Rautenbach and a couple of female officers go over to speak to her. In a voice hardly audible, she tells the officers she is 19 years old and from Pretoria.  That she had been offered work in Cape Town. But she had been tricked and forced to work in the brothel.  It is not the first time the officers hear this kind of story, but unless the girl agrees to come with them voluntarily, the laws of South Africa permit them to do nothing.The situation is becoming desperate and the window of opportunity for this girls´ escape is narrowing fast.  Members of the gang that is running this brothel is slowly starting to gather outside. The Nigerian man who was at the door comes into the room, and the girl hangs her head lower, as if life is draining out of her. She is visibly shaking with fear.   Thomas Rautenbach is begging the girl to come with him, offering to pretend that she is under arrest so she can leave the house.  But slowly her voice grows quieter, the fight leaves her and she gives in to her situation. The team will have to leave her there. In that house. On that bed.

The other game in Cape Town                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Welcome to Cape Town. In a few weeks time South Africa will be the focus of the world’s attention, millions of eyes will be watching the football action in the stadiums of the host cities. But not far away from the football pitches, in dark alleys and respectable looking houses in leafy suburbs alike, a far darker game is being played.  It is a game that is trafficking hundreds of young lives and feeding them to the sex industry in Cape Town. More often than not the vice squad is powerless to help or even put a stop to it. The legal framework simply does not exist.  The “slum brothel” that is run by Nigerian and Cameroonian gangs in Brooklyn, Cape Town is just the last stop on a long night for Thomas Rautenbach and his officers.

The evening started in Koeberg Road where the team fined prostitutes soliciting work on on one of Cape Town´s well know ‘sex tourism’ street. The girls all look very young and come here from all over South Africa.
Most of their customers are ‘foreigners’ and ‘tourists’ and some of the girls explain that they use a flat nearby to take their customers to.  Before Thomas Rautenbach and his squad even move their operation to the suspected slum brothel, they have picked up and processed 21 girls from a stretch of road no longer than one kilometer. They can only move in on this brothel because a member of the public has made a complaint. Unless that happens, the law gives the team of hand selected experts no power to do so-called inspections to find evidence of brothels, prostitution and trafficking. But a complaint was made, and so now they are here. Every next apartment and room the Vice Squad enters in the house gets worse.   Room by room the team checks the occupants and searches for evidence that this property is being used as a brothel. Large boxes of condoms and used and unused condom packets are found on every surface. In every single room there are girls drugged and lying on old beds and sofas. Officers demand and check the papers of the men running the place. All of them seem to be claiming asylum. When asked what they are claiming asylum from, they have no answers.  Most of the visas seem to just consist of a piece of paper that appeared easy to forge.  The South African border is porous and the system allows the traffickers´ business to flourish.

Some organizations such as S.W.E.A.T (Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce)  in South Africa are fighting for the decriminalization of the sex trade, stating that legalization of the trade would stop ‘sex racketing’ and that there is an hysteria a bout trafficking, claiming it isn’t connected to the sex industry.   J.P Smith has been on a crusade for the last decade to clean up the sex industry operating in his constituency which includes Green point, where the main Cape Town Stadium hosting the world cup games is.  He noticed that the overall quality of an area was affected by the existence of an adult shop or escort bars, with ‘slum buildings’ and he started to personally patrol the streets and buildings to get the escort bars and illegal brothels closed down. Then he set up the Vice Squad. In doing so J.P. Smith has become a target of hate from the sex industry and even had his life threatened. Now he is worried again for his constituency and that the up and coming World Cup will once again make the local sex industry boom and he has this warning to tourists coming to his country:
“As for the tourists coming for the World Cup, we shall uphold the law as far as we can here in South Africa. They need to understand that prostitution is a criminal offence in South Africa,” he says.
“Our women and children are not a tradable commodity, they are not for sale. If you want to do that, go to another country,” he warns. J.P. Smith is very concerned that South Africa is at risk of becoming the next Thailand, as South Africa has all the same ingredients, especially poverty.  But it is not only poorer communities that are directly affected by the sex trade and trafficking.

Work permit for a salon
A few nights before the Vice Squad visited the slum brothel in Brooklyn, the officers found themselves in the Table View area inspecting brothels in expensive properties, situated in quiet suburban leafy streets.
Two of the brothels are doing business a stone´s throw away from thriving churches and a park full of playing children, highlighting, how this industry operates right under the general public’s noses.
As chief of the Vice Squad Neil Arendse enters one of the brothels, three well dressed males in their mid-twenties try to escape through the garage where their car is parked. Caught red handed, they pretend they thought it was a shebeem where they could by alcohol.
“You are young, good looking guys. Why are you paying for sex?” Neil Arendse ask them. But all he can do is ask. As they were not caught in the act, the vice squad has no legal reason to arrest them. The best Neil Arendse can hope for is that he has deterred them from using a brothel again.  As the team enters enter the next brothel, they find two very young looking Asian girls huddled in the corner of a room.  One of the girls looks like she has been punched in the nose. A third young girl is crying, sitting on the bed in front of a laptop computer writing on a popular South African escort site.
Not long after the team has gained entry, the ‘owner’ of the establishment arrives.  He is a short white haired and bearded Dutch man in his late 50’s, wearing a bright orange lacrosse shirt, black shorts and plastic Crocs shoes.  He is warning the Vice Squad team in no uncertain terms that he is fully aware of his rights as a ‘citizen’ and owner.   His “girlfriend” an older Chinese lady enters the scene, claiming that the girls on the property are her relatives. The girls are huddled in the corner, holding each other and keeping their heads down. As Neil Arendse and his team check their papers, it emerges that they only have visas and work permits to work in a salon.  But the presence of a high quantity of used condoms found wrapped in newspapers in the bathroom bin tells the Vice Squad that this is no ordinary salon. These condoms are, according to Neil Arendse evidence enough,  to prosecute the property owners for running a brothel.

In very much the same manner that the police in Chicago prosecuted Al Capone for tax evasion rather than mafia related crimes, the Vice Squad only has the power to fine the owners according to the law for misuse of the property.  Inspections are done at brothels in conjunction with the business act. Each business needs to be registered with the City of Cape Town.  If brothels are registered as businesses, the Vice Squad have the option of using the Land Use Act that states that it is not legal to run a business from a residential area. The girls are not arrested, they are only issued with fines in conjunction with the Cities street and public place by-law, which states no person may solicit or importune a person for the sake of prostitution.

One small-framed Chinese girl has no ID or visa papers, so the team takes her to the local police station for Home Affairs to investigate if she might be trafficked.  She claims to be 22 years old and from Shanghai, but she looks closer to 18 years old or even younger.  As she enters the police compounded she seems to grow more and more anxious.  But she has not been there for more than a few moments, before the Dutch man appears, determined to “get his girl back.”  He did not succeed. Home Affairs met her at the police station and a few days later she was deported back to China.  It was never confirmed if she was trafficked, as there is not yet the social welfare services in place within the South African Social system to properly identify trafficked victims. If this girl is a victim, in being returned to China, she is at risk of being re-trafficked again.

Disrupting the sex industry                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In the space of one week the Vice Squad in Cape Town has successfully closed down four brothels and found seven trafficked women. Their operations have been gaining momentum and are starting to cause disruption in the industry.
“Business has been quiet since the vice squad has been doing raids. They have scared our clients away,’’ says Charmine, owner of the Dolphin Drive Brothel. She boasts that her brothel is known to have some of the youngest girls in Cape Town, admitting that in the past underage girls have worked for her.  According to Charmine this happened because the girls lied to her about their age. She says that in the last 10 years of running three different brothels, she has seen clients asking for younger and younger girls, at times even requesting virgins when they call up.
“It´s all about supply and demand”, she explains.
But at least for the moment, Charmine´s ability to supply the market with sex has been cut off. Her brothel was closed down by the Vice Squad.

It still hurts after a hundred times
Not many girls ever make it successfully out of the sex industry, but Jasmine* can count herself as one of the lucky ones. She is a a beautiful woman with high cheekbones and kind, almond shaped eyes who was sold into prostitution by her mother, a prostitute herself, at the tender age of 13.  Today the 32 year old woman lives in the Victory Outreach Centre recovery home. Jasmine* has had a roller coaster journey repeatedly trying to get out the sex trade. She used to work for two Germans who were part of the Hells Angels biker gang, who would pick up vulnerable girls in Cape Town.  Once picked up the girls would be moved around their high-end brothels in Mossel Bay, Knysna, Cape Town and George.

These gangsters nearly trafficked Jasmine* to Austria, by pretending to offer her a holiday near Christmas time, but she was saved by a girl warning her that she would never come back.

It is only since coming to Victory Outreach recovery home, where she has been living since November 2009, she finally has escaped from sex industry and the risk of being trafficked.
“What people do not understand is that it´s not easy to just sleep with anybody -especially if you do not know that person. It is difficult the first time, the second time and even if you do it a hundred times, it is still as bad as the first time. It still hurts you, it is still degrading to you as a person, as a woman as a mother and as somebody’s daughter,” she says.  Being safe and out of the industry has opened her eyes.
“I realize now that I am not just a piece of meat, I am also a person. I am gaining back now, my self esteem and my dignity and I am realizing that I am more than just a piece of flesh’’

For 28 year old Thembe* it was not her mother who sold her off for sex. It was her “boyfriend” who trafficked her from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

He groomed her and manipulated into her to trusting him, playing games with her love for him.  When they reached Cape Town, he was no longer her boyfriend.  He had turned into her pimp. He beat her and forced her to prostitute herself out on Koeberg Road in Maitland.
“He wanted me to make him rich, and forced me to sleep with up to 20 foreigners a day”, Thembe* says.
Now Thembe* is also taking refuge in the Victory Outreach Centre recovery home under the wings of social worker Sister Christine.   According to Sister Christine, she has witnessed how every level of tourism services from the hotel doorman to the taxi drivers, night clubs and The tour operators holiday back in the tourists´ home countries are complicit in the sex trade. During the World Cup, Sister Christine will be working with Project Care, meeting women one on one in Koeberg Road, trying to offer the prostitutes a safe haven, even when the tourist influx will make safe places for these women scarce, especially when there is already a lack of shelters and safe houses in Cape Town.  Charities such as Child Welfare SA (ECPAT) are making a call to the government for the need of specialized services and shelters for sexual exploited and trafficked victims throughout South Africa. The need is great for social welfare and protective services for victims, especially for children. In Cape Town, even though the Vice Squad is finding trafficked victims on a weekly basis,  there is not as yet a specialized shelter for these victims.

But Victory Outreach centre are doing all they can to make a difference with ‘Project Care’,  with the girls who have previously been rescued will now go out in the streets to try and help and rescue others. They do it better than most, Sister Christine explains. Once these girls have escaped, been rehabilitated and found hope, they have the passion, knowledge and experience to be able go deep into this under world, where the Vice Squad wouldn’t even be able to penetrate. But Sister Christine and the Vice Squad can only do so much with the laws of South Africa allowing loopholes for the sex industry to prosper and thrive.

Five years to grow bigger
Megan Briede from Child Welfare SA (ECPAT) believes that the need for a bill is beyond urgent.
“It has been five years in the making and in those five years, how many children have been lost because there is no way to effectively prosecute?  The syndicates and gangs have now had five more years to develop and grow even stronger because we had no way to actually stop them without the legislation”, she says.
She warns that this is a problem that will not go away easily.
“The longer we don’t have the proper legislation, the harder it is going to be to actually clamp down in the end’’.

Megan also highlighted how South Africa’s children are ‘easy pickings’  to traffickers because of the high levels of poverty and unemployment in the country. In UNESCO’s  2007 REPORT looking at root causes and recommendations on Human Trafficking in South Africa, it was highlighted that Poverty is one of the root causes to sexual exploitation and trafficking. Stating ‘It is ultimately poverty, high unemployment and lack of opportunity and the quest of the means of survival, that is the engine driving trafficking in humans’.

Megan warns that the lack of awareness and economic vulnerability is a major cause, a long term cause beyond the world cup.
” There’s a lot of trickery to bring children into the trade and younger girls are at risk, starting at 10 years old, any child living in vulnerable circumstances is open to exploitation”
But she is also concerned by how the problem goes beyond South Africa’s boarders, explaining how there has been a reported increase of children being trafficked across the boarder from nearby African countries with even greater poverty such as Namibia,  Zimbabwe, Mozambique, DRC and Angola.

Comparing past world cups, Megan described the different challenges South Africa faces.
”In germany there was a lot written. There was trafficking, cross boarder trafficking, women coming from Russia and Eastern Europe.
But their structures, their laws are much tighter, even their welfare sector and prosecution is completely different” she says.
”In South Africa we don’t have those resources, we don’t have those structures as strong as a country like Germany. Which makes us much more vulnerable and our children vulnerable. And in Germany where poverty is not such an issue, its harder to entice a child away from home with the promise of nike trainers. You have to take them across a proper boarder, where as in South Africa you can easily take a child across the boarder”

Right now, apart for leading NGO’s such as Child Welfare SA, it is up to J.P. Smith’s Vice Squad to try to make the biggest difference for these girls.  Traffickers thrive on easy pickings of the poor and vulnerable and because of the underground nature of the sex trade it is hard to determine the exact scale of the problem. One thing for certain is that all the experts surrounding the sex trade will agree that trafficking appears to be on the increase.  While the sex industry is preparing itself for a high demand over the World Cup celebrations, hundreds of young girls and women are forced into a darkness from which they may never emerge again.

Like  the girl with the No.7 football shirt the Vice Squad left behind on the sofa in Brooklyn.
Sadly, we don’t even know her name.