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Soccer boosts sex tourism in Cape Town

world Updated: Jul 07, 2010 15:38 IST

IANS
Highlight Story

With a million football fans splurging thousands of dollars during the World Cup, sex tourism in South Africa's number one tourist destination, Cape Town, is at an all time high.

Be it the famous Long Street, the exotic Sea Point or the breathtaking Waterfront, sex workers are having a heyday at the popular spots of this beautiful port city, famous for the Table Top Mountain.

As the sun sets in this Mother City - that's what South Africans prefer to call it - party fever rises and soccer fans venture out to glitzy bars to have their flings.

"Long Street is the most happening street in this city as the bars stay open till late in the night. So you can have all sorts of entertainment. Flings are common and fans are not afraid of taking a risk," said Peter Andre, a British fan.

The lodges and the backpackers’ inns in the city centre are overflowing with Dutch and Uruguayan supporters and that’s where business is booming.

"In this part of the world you have to be very careful. The best thing is that there are no fixed rates and you can bargain," Rafel de Villiers, a Dutch fan, who stays in a backpackers lodge on Long Street, told IANS.

Long Street was once famous for sex workers and drug dealers. While the local authorities have come down hard on the latter, they have been able to do little to rein in prostitution.

From the streets, sex workers have made their way into the bars. They bribe the bouncers and get easy entry into bars for potential clients.

But sex workers now fear business will not be as good as it was for the last one month.

"Business was good. And several sex workers from nearby countries also made their way into Cape Town. But we fear it won’t be as good after the World Cup. During the World Cup we used to get three to four clients everyday," said Aneqaah who runs an escort agency.

"We had a huge demand for white and coloured girls because all the fans who came here were from European countries. We got the best deals from British fans," she added.

The authorities have run a campaign during World Cup to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS in the city, with South Africa having the highest incidence of the disease in the world.

"We talk about responsibility, but not much of this is about tangible action. The tourism industry has the opportunity to spread a huge amount of awareness about responsible tourism," said Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Troit-Helmbold.

"We want locals and visitors to have fun during the World Cup, but to remain responsible while having fun by practicing safe and responsible sex."

A total number of 160,000 condoms were distributed in 30 Cape Town accommodation establishments during the period of the World Cup by Cape Town Tourism.

One of these was the famous Daddy Long Legs Boutique Backpackers, which is now brimming with European soccer fans. The hotel authorities were the first to engage with the project and have boldly distributed condoms.

"Our philosophy at the Grand Daddy Group is to have fun, but we are aware of the fact that having fun creates risk. This is why it is very important for us to help create awareness about the very serious issue of HIV/AIDS that we face globally," said Sergio Dreyer, general manager of the Grand Daddy Group.

While sex and soccer went hand in hand during the World Cup, the controversial subject has sparked heated debate over legalising the profession throughout the country.

Many non-profit groups have complained that South Africa should use this global event to step up its fight against HIV/AIDS. But many say they are being blocked along the way.

South African AIDS organisations have accused football's governing body FIFA of blocking access to condoms and HIV education materials at World Cup stadiums and fan parks.

"To date FIFA has not permitted any civil society organization to distribute HIV or health-related information," claimed the AIDS Consortium, the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society and several other organisations in a statement.