‘Parents send girls to sell bodies for food’

With child prostitution rife in the Free State and rapidly growing, it has emerged that some parents are actually sending their daughters onto the streets to earn an income to help feed the family.

This is the situation in Harrismith and surrounding areas in the eastern Free State where community members have told The New Age that prostitution had become a “normal occurrence” among young women.

An employee at a garage near where some girls ply their trade said the age of street girls was steadily decreasing.

“We see girls as young as 14 being brought here and we are still trying to figure out how they get here.”

He said some travel to QwaQwa and other areas of the eastern Free State to try to make a living.

“These girls should be at school, not doing this nonsense,” he said.

The worker, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he regularly interacted with girls and some of them told him that they were forced by their parents to sell their bodies.

Harrismith is a trade route to various parts of the country and has become a hub of prostitution in the province.

The girls target the truck drivers who stop for a rest or a quick bite at the local truck stop.

Some of the drivers who sleep over hire women to stay with them overnight.

Lecholo Nkabanti, a Commission on Gender Equality spokesperson who deals mainly with human trafficking in the Free State, agreed that child prostitution was on the rise in the province.

“Some of the families here send their children to do prostitution in order to survive,” Nkabanti said.

Last year the commission worked mainly in the eastern Free State where it interviewed girls about their reason for choosing sex work.

He said the commission came to the conclusion that sometimes the decision was made by parents and that “poverty leads the pack” for this choice.

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