Johannesburg : Alarmist predictions that tens of thousands of sex workers would descend on South Africa to cater for football fans at this year`s World Cup were debunked Thursday by a survey showing there had been no surge in prostitution.
The survey carried out by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Cape Town-based lobby group Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) among 663 sex workers in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, found no major increase in demand during or since the World Cup.
The survey also showed that the proportion of foreign sex workers decreased rather than increased during the tournament.
Before the World Cup, several local and international media outlets had quoted an official from South Africa`s Central Drug Authority as saying that up to 40,000 foreign sex workers were expected at the tournament.
`Although our survey revealed a small increase in the number of sex workers advertising online during and shortly after the World Cup, our findings do not provide evidence for the massive increase in supply of sex work around the World Cup, as anticipated by the media,` the researchers said.
The survey also found no evidence of a surge in the trafficking of women and children for sex work - as had also been predicted by some agencies.
Furthermore, contrary to fears in some quarters that the World Cup would aggravate the HIV/AIDS pandemic, 99 percent of the sex workers surveyed said they used condoms - a rate unchanged during the World Cup.
An estimated 5.7 million people in South Africa are HIV-positive, more than any other country. Some analysts have linked the low demand for paid sex by World Cup tourists to their fear of contracting the virus.
Where the pre-tournament reports on trafficking and prostitution succeeded was in spurring local and international donors to make more money available for free condoms and awareness campaigns.
For example, Britain sent 42 million condoms to South Africa for the tournament.
`Yet, none of these investments were based on rigorous research or inquiry and could have been better employed if done in a targeted manner,` according to SWEAT and the UNFPA.