Sunday, 16 March 2014

Prostitution: Choice or circumstance?

HARARE - It is six o’clock in the evening and Majubheki Lines, a slum location in Harare’s first high density area — Mbare — is a hive of activity as people are coming in and going out from different directions.

Shamiso Mara (not her real name) clad in a grey mini skirt, black top which only covers her breasts and wearing brown stilettos, joins a horde of other ladies who are already queuing in pursuit for clients for the night.

Prostitution: Choice or circumstance?
Call them commercial sex workers, thigh vendors, ladies of the night or prostitutes, they are not an unusual feature in the Majubheki Lines most notably along Jack Bakasa Crescent where more than 30 sex workers are queueing for business.

The oldest profession has been regarded as immoral and evil in the eyes of the Lord.

Mara, a divorcee with four children under her custody, could not find any other way of survival and that of supporting her children. She ventured into this profession five years ago after she found herself between a rock and a hard place.

“I resorted to this kind of work not by choice but as a means of survival and to ensure that my family can have food on the table and a proper education. As of now, I haven’t paid school fees let alone rent where I’m staying,” she lamented.

She says life has not been a bed of roses in her profession as they encounter various challenges in the jungle where survival of the fittest is core.

They charge $2 for what they call short time (that is a single session) and $15 for the whole night, fees Mara explained some clients can’t even meet forcing her to accept $1 or $1.50 for a short time.

“Clients are scarce these days,” Mara said highlighting that at times she cannot get a single client and usually now takes home less than $10 the whole night.

“It’s a difficult life, I wish I had a choice then I could leave this life. Some clients refuse to pay for services rendered, claiming that such services are not supposed to be paid for,” Mara claimed.

As if that was not enough, police raids are very common in Mara’s line of work which she complains negatively

affects their business by scaring away potential clients.

She lamented how five groups of police officers patrol her business area during the night and if one is caught and can’t pay something one will spend the night behind bars.

“Imagine the peanuts we are struggling to get in order to feed our families — if arrested the police would want all of it. How then are we going to survive if all we have worked for is taken from us by the police,” she said.

In 2011, Thabitha Khumalo, Bulawayo East MDC legislator once controversially proposed that prostitution in Zimbabwe be decriminalised. She stated that decriminalising prostitution would address three important issues, corruption, HIV/Aids and women’s rights.

Prostitution is believed to be the oldest profession in the world, which seems to be wearing a woman’s face. These women are known by their seductive and revealing attire meant to attract clients.

Four women, who ply this trade at Majubheki Lines, concurred that it’s a survival issue

because they cannot think of any other way to eke out a living.

“Some police officers even force their way inside our houses, if we manage to run away from them. They are not considerate enough to realise we are not here by choice but due to circumstances,” Mara said.

Memory Mataranyika, an informal trader residing in Mbare, fears the repercussions that come with this kind of business.

In addition, she noted that prostitution is not the only way for one to survive as these women can engage in alternative means of earning money by working as housemaids.

“This is a clear sign of laziness and these people just need a quick way of making money which has huge implications not just on the individuals involved but the rest of the society especially during this age of the pandemic,(HIV/Aids) ” Mataranyika said.

She also noted the dangers that come with the job as other clients demand unprotected sex dangling higher fees.

“This business is dangerous and women should find better ways of survival rather than putting their lives at risk. Besides the health risks, such a life is just not peaceful,” Mataranyika pointed out.

As these women roam and wander in their areas where they are soliciting for sex in exchange for cash, they maintain they are prepared to leave this work.

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