In some of the roughest neighborhoods of Cape Town, Africa, minivan taxis line up to pick up kids and take them to school in the morning, and many drivers or their assistants routinely select a pretty school girl, some as young as 12 years old, who would trade sex for a ride to school.
Taxi drivers in South Africa who take kids to school routinely choose young, pretty girls to give them sexual favors in order to get to school. The girls will be given the chance to control the radio, something considered high class there. Then, she is declared the ‘taxi queen‘.
Once declared taxi queen material, the girl is allowed to ride the minibus for free, saving the equivalent of about $1 a day, not an insignificant amount of money for children from impoverished urban neighborhoods. The girls may feel indebted, which is about the point where the problems with seemingly mutually beneficial “transactional relationships” begin to unfold.
Very little academic research exists about taxi queens in South Africa, yet experts agree that the cross-generational nature of these relationships makes it a problem of massive proportions. In the country’s latest HIV/AIDS report, inter-generational sex was highlighted as one of the main sources of HIV transmission in the country, said Anna Strebel, a gender and sexuality researcher.
While girls from poor families might engage in the practice, sometimes referred to as “survival sex,” to get essentials such as food and free rides, other girls do it to be able to afford designer clothes. Strebel said the phenomenon isn’t linked directly to poverty. Still, anecdotal evidence suggests the term was coined in Mitchell’s Plain, one of Cape Town’s poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods.
The key is getting these girls hooked on tik, what South Africans call the methamphetamine Americans refer to as “crystal meth,” and since taxi drivers are widely known to be the city’s most prominent dealers of “straw,” or hits of tik packaged in cut up, inch-long transparent straws. The opportunities for school girls to sample the drug are endless, which is why they become taxi queens without a speck of emotion.
Today, the term “taxi queen” is considered derogatory because it’s now generally agreed the practice stigmatizes and exploits women, most of whom are too young to make informed choices.