The former Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Director said this in an interview on Friday last week. Dr Labode said Zimbabwe should legalise the PROFESSION so that people do it in a safe and open environment where they are bound to use protection and be free from sexually transmitted infections. She further said Zimbabweans should not pretend as if prostitution is not existing.
“Prostitution MUST be legalised. Whether Tabitha (Khumalo) said it or not, it must just be legalised. If it is legalised then women will use condoms and not spread or contract the virus. We should not pretend as if prostitution does not exist. It is there and the moment we legalise it, cases of Aids will definitely decrease and again men will not take advantage of prostitutes as they will be registered under an agent.”
Dr Labode said sex workers should be registered like in European countries where they get agents and pay tax. She said women were pushed into prostitution because of poverty and that the economy should first stabilise for women not to have prostitution as a means of earning income.
Meanwhile, Ms Tabitha Khumalo, an MDC-T legislator, has been on several occasions quoted in the media pushing for legalisation of prostitution in Zimbabwe. Ms Khumalo did not end there, but went on to say these women (prostitutes) are PLEASURE ENGINEERS who are making their SERVICES ESSENTIAL TO THE NATION!
An ally from the same political party, Senator Sithembile Mlotshwa also sent shockwaves among citizens when she suggested that in parliament that men should get CASTRATED in order to reduce HIV infections.
Two weeks ago, another MDC-T senator, Mr Morgan Femai sparked outrage after he suggested that women should STOP BATHING as usual and DRESS SHABBILY in order to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS. The MDC-T senator for Chikomo said his perception was necessary to help curb the spread of HIV because men were finding it difficult to resist attractive and well-dressed women.
OFFERING sex for money (solliciting) is illegal in Senegal, but having sex for money is not. In th is mostly Muslim African country, a sex worker may ply her trade as long as she is registered as a prostitute, has regular check-ups at a designated clinic and is discreet. Dakar, Senegal’s capital, is one of the commercial sex capitals of Africa, with prostitutes coming from all over the sub-region as well as the Middle East. Why then does Senegal have one of the lowest number of AIDS cases in Africa — less than 3,000, in a population of 8.3 million? The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that legalising prostitution is part of the reason. Senegal’s government has been registering sex workers since 1966 — long before AIDS was ever heard of — to combat sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like Syphilis and Gonorrhoea.
Researchers agree that reducing STDs also reduces the rate of HIV infection. Each day, women crowd the clinic in downtown Dakar. “If you have yellow fever, if you have any little diseases they will tell you,” says a woman who gave her name as Sarah. “Sometimes they even give drugs for free. Otherwise you must buy them, or they will not stamp your card.” Registering does have its downsides. Sarah complains that police can harass her whether or not her card is up to date “And if you decide you no longer want to be a prostitute the de-registration process is slow if not impossible,” she says. Still, it’s worth it if the result is less AIDS. Problem is, many experts are not convinced that registering is the reason. Michael Tardy, who runs the Dakar clinic, admits that only about a quarter of Dakar’s professional prostitutes register. “The rest work clandestine.” Many women have sex for money in this society, she says. “Most don’t recognise themselves as prostitutes.” Some experts still see a logic for why AIDS levels are low. El Hadj Sy, co-ordinator of health programs for the NGO, Enda-Santi, says ‘informal’ sex workers often have only a few clients who become de facto husbands.
At the same time, he points out that polygamy is common. Men may legally marry up to four wives. “None of these people get check-ups, either,” he says. While Senegalese may have multiple partners, Sy denies that means they are promiscuous. “People have sex in clusters,” he says. Body fluids are only exchanged amongst a limited number of people. “In a polygamous household, if the man and his wives do not sleep with other people there is no way to get infected,” he argues, adding that “culture and religion are a strong social control.” Others are not so sure. For Kate Cisse Wane, head of the nation program on AIDS, “claims that because this is a Muslim country people have sexual behaviour different from the sexual behaviour of other African countries are questionable.” Sex workers in the villages often travel to the big cities or follow migrant workers, says Wane. “They then have sex with many men.” As for polygamy, Wane notes that when married men are searching for second or third wives they invariably “try out” lots of other women. And, she notes, “Senegalese men are often looking for second or third wives.” So why then are only 70,000 serpositive people — less than two percent of the population — in all of Senegal, while in nearby Abidjan the level is 15 percent? “We simple don’t know,” says Tardy. Most astonishingly, while 15 percent of the professional sex workers that come to the clinic are infected with the HIV, that level has not increased since 1992. There are still many theories.
Soulyman Mboup, a professor at Dakar university, has shown that the HIV 2 virus (which he discovered) is common in Senegal — it is both less virulent and less contagious than HIV 1. But there are also no clear answers as to why the type 2 virus is common here when sex workers come from all over Africa and why HIV 2 is common in other regions where AIDS levels are high. Western experts continue to stress the importance of legalising sex work. That way, they say, sex workers have been able to develop a ‘code of conduct’ to ensure that their clients use condoms. “If you tell a man that you won’t have sex without a condom he can’t just go to the next corner and find a sex worker who will,” says one sociologist. Yet according to sex workers themselves, some Senegalese men also insist on not using condoms. In a discussion group at the clinic, women complained that they do not have the power to enforce: “The Senegalese men say ‘I am not sick. Are you sick?… Then why do we need it’?” El Hadj Sy remains convinced that there are “indigenous strategies” for minimising the risk of infection.
Traditionally in many parts of Senegal, when a man dies his brother marries the widows and AIDS experts have long believed that when the death is AIDS related the HIV virus is then automatically spread to the brother and his first wives. But according to Sy, village elders are becoming aware of this risk. “In some villages they have changed the practices so widows must come and sit on the lap of their brother-in-law, but they no longer have to marry or have sex with him,” he says. Still, Sy admits he doesn’t know which are the strategies that are most significant in keeping AIDS levels low. Next year a study will be conducted in both Senegal and Uganda — a country with one of the highest incidents of AIDS. “Hopefully then we will know which factors count,” he says.
Night falls across Harare and Tracy Ncube sashays up Fife Avenue in a tight skirt and borrowed shirt to sell the only thing she can.
Half a dozen other young women are already stationed outside Tipperary’s bar and Ncube picks her spot, a tree opposite the car park illuminated by headlights. She has been a prostitute for two weeks and has bagged three customers, earning $45 (£25).
Zimbabwe’s youth were once considered Africa’s brightest, graduates of one of the continent’s best education systems which bred sophistication, confidence and ambition.
But the economy has crumbled and, with it, opportunity. There are virtually no jobs. Some 90 per cent of the country’s 11.8 million people live on less than $1 a day. Hyperinflation and food shortages are making the middle class destitute.
So, a fortnight ago, Ncube, 23, turned to prostitution. ‘These days life is very hard. My family doesn’t know that I do this, but how else am I to survive?’
She was visibly nervous. Her voice trembled, but she was determined to bag a fourth customer to earn between $7 and $20.
Aid jargon calls prostitution, or transactional sex, a ‘negative coping mechanism’, a desperate but effective way to get by.
Others emigrate, flying to Britain to work as nurses or jumping a fence to scrounge jobs in Botswana or South Africa. Their pay keeps many families afloat. For President Robert Mugabe, all this is excellent news. Inflation is close to 400 per cent, unemployment is at 70 per cent and hunger and homelessness are spreading, but there is no sign of revolution.
Yesterday the country was digesting the surprise acquittal of the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who had been charged with attempting to assassinate the president. On Friday a high court in Harare dismissed the case which for two years had crippled his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). It was a significant boost for the party but there was little public jubilation.
Partly this was because police in riot gear patrolled the capital with guns and batons. A military jet roared low overhead to reinforce the authority of a regime in power since independence from Britain in 1980.
But another reason was resignation. Analysts say that the ruling Zanu-PF party will sweep parliamentary elections due next March because opposition has been crushed.
Starved of an independent media and the right to campaign freely, the MDC has withered, according to a senior MP who asked not to be named. Its narrow defeats in rigged elections in 2000 and 2002 were high-water marks, he said.
Both cause and symptom of its malaise are to be found on Fife Avenue. At night, the smart, leafy suburb close to the city centre is a red-light district.
None of the prostitutes had a good word to say about Mugabe, whom they accused of despotism, but none responded to the MDC’s plea to rally at the high court for Tsvangirai’s verdict.
‘Look, I’m a working girl. I need to sleep and do things around the house during the day,’ said Talent Mushonga, 23. Samantha Hazvinei, 24, said girls as young as 15 and middle-aged married women were turning up. ‘We are too many ladies looking for too few men. I need to come earlier and earlier and stay longer to get business.’
A UN report last year said poverty and hunger were fuelling child labour and prostitution. An aid worker, who did not want to be named because of a crackdown on non-governmental organisations, said she knew middle-aged women, including nurses, teachers and police officers, who had turned to prostitution.
Maxine, 27, a three-year veteran of Fife Avenue, said the new arrivals were reckless. ‘They are hot hot, chilli chilli, all in a rush. But they don’t last, they die fast.’
Official figures show that 24.6 per cent of the adult population is infected with HIV, one of the highest rates in the world.
Ncube said she preferred to use a condom but admitted the competition for customers – and frequent demand for unprotected sex – could weaken her resolve.
‘What else can I do? Go out and demonstrate against the government? Demand change?’ The notion made her laug
Mutare — Holding a Bible and smartly-dressed in a formal executive wear, Memory Dube* could be mistaken as an office executive. But alas, she is a hardcore prostitute masquerading as a Christian.
“I am desperate for marriage and at the same time looking for decent clients, who would take care of me,” she said. “I can be married if I pretend to be a Christian. I have friends who were prostitutes and they are married now.”
Dube, who religiously attends lunch-time prayers at one of the Pentecostal churches in the city centre, is one of the breed of prostitutes that have invaded the mountainous city of Mutare. They pretend to be true Christians by day and turn to hookers by night for survival.
“Our brothers from the church do not go to night clubs, where we will be doing our errands with other clients,” said Dube. “Then during the day, we will be chasing the church guys who will end up marrying us.”
Another hooker, who identified herself only as Shylet, said they usually had unprotected sex with the brothers from the church but insisted on using condoms with the clients from the bars.
“The church brothers do not use condoms because they say they want to marry us,” said Shylet. “Since we are desperate for marriage, we do not have any options but to give in.”
She added that she was targeting the church men because they were not exposed to the hassle and bustle of night club life.
“Those guys who frequent nightclubs do not marry because some of them know us,” she said, adding that she was prepared to settle down once she found someone who could marry her.
A pastor with a popular church here confirmed female “born again” Christians were flocking to churches in the hope of finding decent people who could marry them.
“We are having a lot of confessions from prostitutes who are saying they are born again,” said the pastor. “We feel that they have repented, but we are having problems with others who are snatching other people’s husbands in the church.”
He said several church goers had fallen prey to the sex workers and ended up marrying them.
“They come to our church in the afternoon and pretend to be Christians and go to night clubs during the night where they sell sex. It has become complicated.” he said.
Simon Gandi of The Christian Life Ministries, said most people were falling prey to the ladies of the night because it was difficult to distinguish between a hooker and a true Christian in a short space of time.
“They are doing it secretly,” said Gandi. “One cannot be able to see that a certain female church member is a prostitute.”
David Kamunda, a prayer group leader with Christ Embassy Church said: “We do not prevent people from coming to our church. We call upon all sinners to come and receive salvation. We cannot close doors on sinners they should come and receive God and have their sins forgiven.”
A youth leader with The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, Moses Danha, also confirmed the new trend where prostitutes come to church to look for marriage.
“I understand that unmarried women in Zimbabwe have become very desperate and they can do anything,” said Danha.
“We have experienced that in our church. We have cases where our male church members have married these prostitutes who come into our church masquerading as born again Christians.”
POLICE in Harare have embarked on a blitz arresting women in bars and night spots, accusing them of engaging in prostitution, a move roundly condemned by women and human rights organisations.
For the past two weeks, female dancers and patrons in bars have been arrested and fined by the police in the capital. Popular raunchy dancer, Beverly Sibanda, on Friday said the police were causing mayhem in the bars.
“Two weeks ago when I performed at City Sports Bar, I was confronted by four police officers as I walked out of the bar after my show,” said Beverly.
“They told me I had been arrested and I asked them what they were charging me for and they simply said there was an operation.”
Beverly added: “They only left me and my group when we forcibly got into our car but they went away with almost 10 other women they had taken out of the bar.”
Beverly condemned the police’s act. “What they are doing is wrong because they are discriminating against women. It is not a crime in Zimbabwe to be a female in a bar at night,” she said.
“Even if this was aimed at curbing prostitution, there are many other issues that need to be addressed before they can start persecuting people. After all, not every woman in a bar is a prostitute.”
Feminist activist, Everjoice Win, said even if the operation was to rid Harare of prostitution, it still bordered on infringement of rights as those involved in the act, made conscious choices. “Sex work is work so why eradicate it,” Win said.
“Those people did their maths and economic analysis. Some have day-time jobs and they have reasons why they have to take up sex work as a second job.”
She said the arrests emanated from the misconception that these were young, unemployed girls going astray, yet they were talking about adults who have the capacity to make their own choices.
Win, formerly a Commonwealth advisor to the Commission on Gender Equality, said women were entitled to freedom of movement and association just like men. She said women should be allowed to choose their economic life without any hindrances.
Women’s Action Group (WAG) executive director, Edinah Masiyiwa, said the blitz was derailing progress the country had made towards gender equality. “Gender inequality is what necessitated the birth of WAG because women were being denied their freedom of movement and association,” Masiyiwa said.
“We are still researching on this issue to try and understand what really transpired but if it is true that they were indiscriminately arresting women in bars, then that negates the progress we had made in the area of gender equality.
She added: “Women too have a right to access bars.” Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) programmes manager, Dzimbabwe Chimbga, said the organisation last Tuesday represented 17 women who were randomly arrested as part of the operation.
“The women were randomly picked up and accused of being ladies of the night,” he said. “The court released them on bail. But we are saying the law should not be blind to people’s rights and freedoms.”
Chimbga said women have a right “to be at any bar they so wish to be at and of course at any time of the day, be it in the morning, afternoon, evening and even at night.”
He urged the police to stop the operation forthwith saying they should only intervene when a crime has been or is about to be committed.
Arrests only after surveillance: Sabau
Harare police spokesperson inspector, James Sabau, confirmed that the police have an operation aimed at getting rid of touts, streets kids and prostitutes in an effort to reduce crime in the city.
He however denied that they were targeting innocent women in bars and night spots insisting that the arrest are made after proper surveillance by police in plain clothes before those in uniform effected the arrest.
“We are not targeting innocent women at random but these arrests are done after proper surveillance,” said Sabau. “If there is a bar owner, where police arrest women inside his or her bar, they should come forward and make a complaint to Officer Commanding Harare so that investigations can be carried out.”