CCS
CCS Events
CCS Libraries
About CCS
CCS Projects
BRICS
CCS Highlights


Publication Details

Reference
Burger, Vanessa (2013) We must clean up our own crimes before others’
Eye on Civil Society (The Mercury) : -.

Summary
DURING these 16 days of meaningless teeth gnashing, the good citizens of Glenwood launched another attack on our ladies of the night, so-called activism to “clean up crime and grime from our streets” – an anti-prostitute protest.

I wondered precisely which part of the phrase I found so offensive. Was it the “cleaning up” part which verbally lumps these women into the same inanimate category as discarded shoes, cardboard boxes and broken bottles, to be tossed on society’s rubbish with vagrants, street kids and street traders.

“Grime” similarly conjures up images of rotting buildings, or the scum around a dirty sink, a far cry from the living, breathing, feeling beings who are frequently forced through poverty, crime or other difficulties to walk the streets.

Which brings me to the “crime” part of this obnoxiously sanctimonious little phrase. Exactly whose crime are the gung-ho guardians of our morality referring to?

Could it be the criminal cops who cruise our streets at night, picking up prostitutes for a little slap without the tickle before dumping them back at their street corners?

Corruption is, I last heard, still a legislated criminal offence in South Africa. And is it not a crime for members of the community to shoot unarmed women with paintballs and rubber bullets? Or spray them with water laced with pepper spray or acid? Of course rape, murder and assault are crimes too.

Coercion
I also would’ve thought coercing young women into drug addiction was a crime. Or forcing them to sell drugs. Or themselves. Or starving them and preventing them from getting medical attention. Or withholding their earnings, or passports, or even children sometimes to ensure their absolute compliance. Or throwing them out of windows so they break their backs, or gang raping, hanging or stabbing them. Or forcing them to abort pregnancy after pregnancy. I thought human trafficking was a crime too.

And in case you’re interested, each scenario described here refers to an actual crime against a real woman, a sex worker. Not committed once or twice, but over and over.

With some, the gaping maw of their families’ starvation keeps these women on the streets.

With others, the excruciating agony of whoonga ensures total submission to their pimps.

Or the so-called exit strategies, raising their hopes of reintegration into society with a little light training, only to be dashed by the soaring unemployment rate, ensuring their return to the oldest profession in the world, the only one that assures them some sort of income.

I would have thought the real crimes were public disturbance, littering, indecent exposure and urinating in public. Crimes that should have got the community standing shoulder to shoulder, lining the streets in outrage and demanding social justice, human rights and an end to corrupt policing.

Some observers might politely call what Glenwood’s frightened citizens are doing a “misguided” approach. Some would say it’s the coward’s way. Others may even say it’s a way of appearing effective while ignoring the massive elephant looming over the room. I say, there are always two sides to every coin.

But hell, sex workers aren’t really human are they? So let’s bang a few more “hos” during the remaining 16 days while denouncing violence against women – it’s all good so long as we hold hands on Sundays. I wonder though, what will it take to “clean the crime and grime” from our hands... or what’s left of our souls.

To quote Nigerian author and Booker Prize-winner Ben Okri: “In the old days, people used to see angels, now they don’t even see their fellow human beings.”

Burger is an Umbilo activist and Brutus Community Scholar at the UKZN Centre for Civil Society

 cast your net a little wider...
 Radical Philosophy 
 AFRICAN ENVIROMENTAL JUSTICE DOCUMENTARY FILMS 
 African Studies Association (USA)  
 New Dawn Engineering 
 Wikipedia 
 Indymedia Radio 
 Southern Africa Report online 
 Online Anti Apartheid Periodicals, 1960 - 1994 
 Autonomy & Solidarity 
 New Formulation 
 We Write 
 International Journal of Socialist Renewal 
 Theoria 
 Journal of African Philosophy 
 British Library for Development Studies 
 The Nordic Africa Institute Online Library 
 Political Economy Research Institute Bulletin (PERI) 
 Feminist Africa 
 Jacques Depelchin's Tribute to Harold Wolpe 
 Chimurenga 
 African Studies Quarterly 
 The Industrial Workers of the World 
 Anarchist Archives 
 Wholewheat Radio 
 Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa  
 Zanon Workers 
 Public Citizen  
 Open Directory Project 
 Big noise films 
 London Review of Books  
 New York Review of Books 
 Monthly Review 
 New Left Review 
 Bureau of Public Secrets  
 Zed Books 
 Pluto Press 
 Duke University Press  
 Abe Books 
 The Electric Book Company 
 Project Guttenberg 
 Newspeak Dictionary 
 Feral Script Kiddies 
 Go Open Source 
 Source Forge 
 www.kiarchive.ru 
 Ubuntu Linux Home Page 
 Software for Apple Computers 



|  Contact Information  |  Terms of Use  |  Privacy