Rethink Legalizing Sex Trade: Grizelda Grootboom Shares Her Story

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by Anne Fulton

I was first introduced to Grizelde Grootboom when she came as a guest lecturer to my health psychology class to tell us about her life in the sex trade industry and how she managed to escape. As an activist against the oppression of womxn, she raised awareness about the horrors of human trafficking, drug abuse, and prostitution of womxn in South Africa.

While some think that to legalise sex trade in South Africa would help womxn who are involved in prostitution, she explains that to legalise sex trade, would be to legalise physical, sexual and drug abuse. Human trafficking and prostitution would increase, making it easier for more human rights to be violated.

Her story shocked the students, touching each soul in the room. She was born in Cape Town, encircled by poverty, dislocation and sexual and physical abuse. Her life changed dramatically at the tender age of nine, when a gang of young men raped her. Thereafter she left home to live on the streets. Attempting to seek a better life, she left the streets of Cape Town when she was 18, and took a train to Joburg. Betrayed by a friend and forced into sex slavery and drug abuse, her life turned into a harrowing world of drug dealing, prostitution, pimping and trafficking. Grizelde’s bold and brutally honest account moved students to tears.

She published her first book Exit, her autobiographical retelling of the events, in 2016 in which Grizelde hopes to set an example for others to follow. She now works as an advocate for Embrace Dignity, an NPO based in Cape Town, to commit to ending prostitution through law reform (a growing global movement) and restore dignity for those who want to exit the prostitution industry.

Students can get involved by raising awareness about rethinking the legalisation of prostitution in South Africa. Join Embrace Dignity as a volunteer, or apply for an internship by emailing You can also make a donation on the Embrace Dignity website. For more information, visit the website:

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