The article is part of our Kwanele Survivor Speak series where Kwanele survivor movement members share their lived experience of violence and exploitation in the system of prostitution. 

My name is Mampho I am 25 years old from Free State. I am a second born at home. I have three brothers and my mom passed away when I was in Grade 4 and I was 10 years at the time. I ran away after 2 years of staying with my dad and stepmother because my dad was very abusive. My dad was a monster who always highlighted our naughtiness and we would sleep outside for days as he was not home as he worked at Doornkop mine in Johannesburg. I fled to Johannesburg at the age of 13 years.

Life was hard in the streets so I had to make a living. I had to make sure I survived. I know how it feels to go to jail just for a meal and a safe place to sleep. I was homeless and I stayed in the railway at Lenasia till 16 years then I started selling my body. Due to my age I did not ask much, the men were telling me what they want and often refused to use condoms and diverted from the agreements we would normally have before sex. I then found out that I am HIV positive and had to hide it from the other girls fearing that they will tell “clients”.

I started taking ARVs medication but that didn’t help because Metro Police often chased us all over the city and my medication would get lost. I tried going to adult school but I could not do my matric cause I do not have an ID. I have looked for jobs till this day but there’s absolutely nothing. I am now staying at the nearby informal settlement and make a living by selling atchaar, bunny chow and cigarettes. I support the Abolitionist Equality Law because I don’t want to end up dead in a ditch somewhere nor do I want any women to go through that. A lot of prostituted women have been killed by the after effects of cold weathers in their bodies as we used to sleep outside. We also roam with violent truck drivers from point A to B. Lastly the sex buyers are violent and they kill us without any mercy it’s like we are not human. Majority of us do not even have identity documents although we are South African. We are a forgotten population and most organisations only serve us with condoms and lubricants and encourage to keep this violent inhumane lifestyle.

I need a dignified work and opportunities so that I can go back to the Free state. As a result of rape on the streets, I have a daughter now. I cry every day at the thought of her falling into a trap that is the system of prostitution. I have been raped, beaten up and called names. I have also explored with drugs and have landed in jail for petty crimes just to run away from the cold and cruel street life. I do not want the decriminalisation of the system of prostitution and I do not want prostitution to be called “sex work” as it is not work at all. The sex buyers have no respect for us as women. I exited the system of prostitution after I was beaten to a pulp by a white sex buyer for refusing to blow job him without a condom and it was only because I had mouth sores and I wanted to protect us both. I got kicked and beaten up by big boots and I was afraid of that man he was heavy and he told me the police will not believe me because I’m just a whore.  I am still traumatized by that to this day.