Abusive relationship forces woman into sex work

File Photo.
Survivors of domestic violence rely on shelters for safety and support navigating the system. Credit: Leah Lockhart/ Flickr

Evelyn Moseo’s story is similar to that of many women who come to Johannesburg in search of a better life, hoping to make enough money to support themselves and send some extra back home.

Moseo was living in Lesotho when her boyfriend Jacob Banda, who was living in Yeoville, invited her to join him.

“I just wanted to leave Lesotho because there was nothing there for me. When I asked my boyfriend Jacob if I could come and stay with him in Johannesburg he agreed and I thought my problems were over,” said Moseo.

But the trouble started when Banda started calling her randomly to check on her whereabouts. Then he demanded that she report to him regularly. When she got a job at a nearby salon he refused to allow her to work, insisting that he would provide for her.

“The agreement before I left my home in Lesotho was for me to come and look for a job. But then my boyfriend wouldn’t allow me to work because of the late hours. At least that was his excuse,” Moseo explained.

But she refused to be a stay-at-home girlfriend and worked, and one day when she came home late her boyfriend told her to either leave the job or pack and leave his house.

“I was so scared because I didn’t know anyone besides him and the ladies I was working with. The money I was earning was not enough to support myself fully, so I decided to go that night and join my colleague who was renting a room.”

Salary not enough

Then Banda started coming to the salon and harassing her while she worked, claiming she owned him the money for bringing her to South Africa.

With her salary not being enough to support herself and send money home, she was faced with what seemed to be the only solution. She became a sex worker.

With her salary not being enough to support herself and send money home, she was faced with what seemed to be the only solution. She became a sex worker.

“You know sex work is the only way to survive in Johannesburg if you don’t have education and a South African ID book,” she said.

But there is help available for women like Moseo. People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) is an aid organisation the caters specifically for abused women in need of assistance. The organisation has two shelters in Johannesburg – one on the East Rand and the other on the West Rand.

According to Itumeleng Moloko, counseling manager at POWA, “We encourage women to call our head office on 011642 4345 to get all the information and help they need. Our shelters work on confidentiality, so we don’t give out the women’s numbers to anyone.”

Moloko said some of the women seeking help did not have legal documents, and POWA would refer them to the relevant government departments or organisations for assistance.

An edited version of this story appeared in The Star.

* This article was produced through a journalist fellowship for the Heinrich Boell Foundation (HBF) and the National Shelter Movement of South Africa’s “Enhancing the State’s Response to GBV: Paying the True Costs”, project which is funded by the European Union. 


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