Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Ashley Smith

Red-light district for Cape Town?

The Cape Town unicity is working on separate policies to regulate the city's 10 000 illegal shebeens and its adult entertainment industry, which includes sex shops, massage parlours and brothels.

Included in the city's adult entertainment policy investigation report are international case studies, including one of Amsterdam's red-light district where organised sex work is no longer a crime, but forced prostitution, pimping and trafficking carry heavy sentences.

Although the city does not have the authority to grant licences for both the sex and illegal shebeen industries, it is a key roleplayer in terms of its power to consent to the rezoning of areas where these trades are plied.

Reports on the development of both policies are set to come before the city's planning and environment committee on Tuesday.

'The amount of applications for the period mentioned is significantly small'

In terms of the adult sex industry, the unicity policy hinges on the outcome of a number of court battles to have the sections of the Sexual Offences Act, dealing with prostitution and brothels, declared unconstitutional.

One such case is at present before the Constitutional Court where Andrew Phillips, the owner of The Ranch, a well-known brothel in Rivonia, Gauteng, has asked for a declaratory order stating that the definition of "unlawful carnal intercourse", violates certain provisions of the constitution.

The city report on an adult sex industry policy says that in "the scenario where sex work from fixed premises" is legalised or decriminalised and street sex work remains illegal, council would be faced with the "vexed issue" of managing brothels.

"It is not considered appropriate for the city to afford brothels primary land usage rights," said the report.

Options to consider in deciding on whether to grant permission to operate a brothel include:

  • A consent use of departure application by the brothel owner, which must be accompanied by a public participation process and scope for the unicity to impose "stringent operating conditions".
  • Differentiating brothels from other adult entertainment activities and assigning them a "special zone" that is subject to specific "locational and operating conditions, ie a red-light districts".

In terms of the city's shebeen policy, a study revealed a shocking 10 000 illegal taverns operating in the metropolitan area and 20 000 in the whole of the Western Cape.

The study also showed that between January and November last year only 68 licence applications were lodged with the Liquor Board.

Of these, 12 were approved subject to the required rezoning being obtained, 42 were postponed, five turned down and nine withdrawn.

The report said: "Out of an estimated 20 000 illegal operations — the amount of applications for the period mentioned is significantly small and the 12 approvals negligent in terms of any attempt to rectify the current situation.

The town planning (rezoning) aspects of the application process are singled out by roleplayers in the industry as the biggest impediment in acquiring a liquor licence".

The report was compiled for the city by Macroplan Town and Regional Planners.

It said: "In black townships shebeens are generally more acceptable and seen to be part of the 'cultural expression'.

"In the coloured townships, whilst they are considered convenient outlets for purchasing liquor, most are associated with gangsterism, crime, drug trafficking and even prostitution."

The report said some of the following issues should be considered in the development of an effective shebeen policy for the city:

  • Town planning procedures alone cannot regulate the industry effectively;
  • Emphasis should be on management of the industry as opposed to enforcement;
  • Recognise the competencies of various authorities, ie. the Liquor Board, local municipality and magistrate's court;
  • The identification of target areas for implementation; and
  • The development of effective monitoring mechanisms.
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Created: September 11, 2002
Last modified: September 11, 2002
CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
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Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710