Ladies of 'The Bush' cry foul
Sex workers are being harassed by metro police and even threatened with police dogs - at a time when the government has called for them to be treated "with dignity". Last week, metro police arrived at a field in Pretoria West known as "The Bush" and told sex workers they were there to get rid of them.One sex worker told The Times: "We were scared to run away because they had about 10 dogs."Sex workers said about 100 metro cops arrived in two buses and told them that they "were a disgrace to schoolchildren" and they were there to "clean up" the area.The sex worker said the police ignored them when they asked how they expected them to earn money to feed their children if they chased them from "The Bush".This harassment has been going on since November, according to activists from Sex Workers' Education and Advocacy Taskforce and the Sisonke Sex Worker Movement. This is despite Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa saying in March that sex workers were "entitled to dignity".Under a new scheme, the government wants all HIV-positive sex workers to use condoms and receive antiretroviral medicine.On Wednesday the shacks in which they entertain their clients were burned down and condoms destroyed. The sex workers said they paid a man R20 a day to guard the condoms they receive from the Department of Health through an NGO that gives them healthcare.SWEAT and Sisonke alleged that the metro police were ordered by Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa to "clean up the site''. Blessing Manale, the mayor's spokesman, did not respond to requests for comment.Sally Shackleton, director of SWEAT, said the harassment started in November when a sex worker was murdered in the area."These murders are notoriously difficult to investigate but sex workers wanted to talk about how they found the body," she said.Shackleton claimed they had been told by police that they had arrest quotas for sex workers.