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Prostitutes flock to South Africa ahead of World Cup 2010

As with the 2006 World Cup in Germany, a rampant sex trade is of concern to human rights groups ahead of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa, which kicks off next month. Prostitutes, many from impoverished Zimbabwe, are arriving to cash in on an estimated 500,000 visiting fans.

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“Marriages are fast breaking up with women choosing to stay alone in South Africa's hotels and lodges,” Mr. Zimuto said by telephone. "But the most unfortunate part, is what are they going to do after the World Cup?"

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That appears to be of small concern to the women themselves, who are already elbowing for business space ahead of the games. "Old prostitutes are threatening us, and they call us foreigners," says Janet Mashavira of Marondera, Zimbabwe, who works at the Little Rose Hotel in the Hillbrow section of Johannesburg.

Prostitution is illegal in South Africa, though some groups have called for its legalization ahead of the World Cup. One parliamentarian, George Lekgetho, has said legalization "is one of the things that would make it a success" while it could also reduce incidents of rape and instituting brothel standards.

Police spokeswoman Colonel N. Kweza says the law enforcement agency is arresting many prostitutes in Johannesburg's central business district, but she adds that the Department of Justice determines fines and penalties. The Department of Justice refused to comment unless questions were received in writing. The Monitor is waiting for answers to a submitted list of written questions, including details on the penalties for sex trafficking, pimping, prostituting, and soliciting.

Home Affairs Ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa also declined to answer questions unless received in writing.

Rights groups call for intervention

With the World Cup's June 11 kick-off only weeks away, human rights activists and church groups are urging hotels in South Africa to ensure that their places of business are not used for the sex trade.

One group, the New York-based Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), wrote an open letter April 21 to South African hotels and tourist operations urging them to help combat human trafficking and child prostitution.

“While the lodging industry is certainly not responsible for these tragic crimes, they are in a unique position to help prevent them by taking steps to stop the use of their hotels for this purpose," Julie Tanner, assistant director of socially responsible investing at CBIS in New York, said in a press release.

The letter calls for hotels to coordinate with police and anti-trafficking organizations, to educate staff in identifying potential victims and reporting incidents, and to inform guests of the penalties for human trafficking and sex abuse of children. Some hotels have already signed the Christian Brothers’ agreement, while others argue that what their customers do is their personal affair.