Gauteng staked its claim to tourism as one of the drivers of economic development in the province at the Tourism Indaba last week. The province’s tourism stakeholders at the Indaba highlighted Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, Sedibeng, Tshwane and the West Rand, as the key targets for tourist attraction. In many countries tourism is inextricably linked to the sex industry with some tourists specifically travelling in pursuit of erotic pleasure, and activists have sounded a warning about this. According to an ECPAT report, many travoffenders come to Gauteng to fulfil their fantasies about “exotic, beautiful dark skinned girls”. “None of the tourists we (ECPAT) interviewed made the classic ‘Here, I live like a king/playboy’ which is so central to sex tourists’ pleasures elsewhere in the world. For these reasons, South Africa does not yet attract large numbers of ‘Macho Lad’ or ‘Mr Average’ type sex tourists,” ECPAT said.
ECPAT’s report on Child Prostitution and Sex Tourism in South Africa found that affluent British and German sex tourists were indulging in racialised sexual fantasies, showing a marked preference for black or coloured women and girls and having no interest whatever in white prostitutes. “The foreign tourists we interviewed were uniformly racist and their racisms play a central role in the construction of a moral justification for their acts of sexual exploitation,” ECPAT said. “They’re the ones in control. They use the men for sex, they’re very straightforward, and they just get on with it, if you know what I mean. They like white men, the coloured girls and the black girls, they’re all over you.” ECPAT said that western sex tourists often requested shows or parties involving racialised events, others in performances designed to reveal them as “animalistic” so that their sexual degradation is simultaneously a “racial” degradation. Another worrying factor was that the affluent tourists and adventure/backpackers were indifferent as to the age of the girls they exploited. “The main criteria for selection are body type and racialised identity, so that females anywhere between the ages of 14 and 30 can be attractive to them. However, there is some evidence to suggest that there are also tourists whose main reason for holidaying in South Africa is to indulge their paedophilia.”
The Asijiki Coalition for the Decriminalisation of Sex Work in South Africa in a 2015 document titled sex work, migration and tourism, claimed that these three aspects are normal in a modernising, outward-looking country like SA. It warned that criminalisation has not halted either sex work or sex tourism, instead it only put workers and clients at risk of harm. They refuted arguments that decriminalising sex work would give South Africa a bad name and stop other types of tourists visiting, leading to an overall drop in visitors and less money coming into the country. “This belief does not appear to be true if you consider countries like Thailand and the Netherlands that are known for sex tourism: they continue to have increasing numbers of visitors. One possible reason for this is that, when the sale of sex is legal, it often happens in particular areas, which tourists can simply choose to avoid,” Asijiki said. Katlego Rasebitse from Sweat (Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Task force)/Sisonke called for changes to the sex laws. “What is the impact of this old law dating back to 1957? Sex workers fear arrest and suffer extra judicial abuse from the police, including rape, violence and being made to pay bribes. “Sex workers are reluctant to report crimes, making them vulnerable from clients and other members of the public,” Rasebitse said. He says that the risks even from international clients become greater because of the lack of legal protection. “Unequal power relations and the threat of violence limits sex workers’ ability to negotiate condom use. Sex workers may avoid carrying condoms because these can be confiscated by police or used as “evidence” of breaking the law,” he said.