The soft glow of the Moroccan-inspired lamps around the house is warm and welcoming, adding to the enticing ambience.South Africa's prostitution industry is edging closer to being regulated amid a bold new plan by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to reduce HIV among prostitutes.Zohra Mohamed Teke investigates the world of the country’s illicit sex trade as part of a series.In this first piece, she goes undercover in a plush Durban North brothel with permission from the madame operating the business.Durban - It’s just before 9pm on a Friday and a group of scantily clad young women are relaxing in the lounge of a spacious home in an upmarket, quiet northen Durban suburb.
I get a quiet moment with Sophie before she leaves. And, like many other prostitutes I’ve interviewed, has eyes which reflect a cold emptiness that not even her warm smile can disguise.I try prompting her into talking about why she chose this profession, and like Julia, she’s initially reluctant.But she opens up when she realises we share something in common -motherhood - and cautiously tells her story.I haven’t told anyone in my family about what I do. “I’ve always wanted to become a journalist,” she says. “It would also allow for more transparent access to health care without fear of being judged, and regular checks so that there is greater control of disease and health risks.” Her attention is diverted towards the entrance of the house where a young man wants to be let in.
“I love Christiane Amanpour from CNN and dreamt of being just like her one day. “No smoking allowed here - sorry, you can’t come in,” Julia shouts across the passage to the man at the gate.Sophie is a single Indian mother who grew up in Durban’s Chatsworth suburb. I make his lunch for school, prepare him for nursery, kiss him goodbye and drop him off before I come to work.