Prostitution rife in Zimbabwe: Vendors charging $15 for high risk sessions

Lovemore Lubinda|

It is viewed as inhuman, immoral, despised, and attracts all sorts of names, prostitution is considered one of the worlds’ oldest professions but some have decided to stay put in this infamous territory full of adversaries.

Various media publications reported of a disturbing scene where a sex worker was murdered in the Mashonaland Central capital city, Bindura recently, the news that filtered through later after the incident were that the murder came after a misunderstanding involving $60 between the hooker and a client.

With cases and acts of prostitution being reported almost every day and some unconfirmed reports claim it to be on a rise, Zim News went down on the ground, to try and unravel the untold story in the industry of sex work (prostitution). As such, this publication visited a number of hot spots in the city in an attempt to hear from the horse’s mouth as to what is it like getting involved such acts.

We deliberately avoided the traditional and well known ‘the Avenues’ area, as we sought to uncover the seemingly new areas that the social ill had taken by storm.

South East of the Fourth Street bus terminus in Harare lies the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) fleet yard, further afield along Mukuvisi River are the grounded locomotives, lying neglected, and depreciated by both the hands of time and exposure to the harsh agents of weathering.

Wadzanai Muringisi, is a character in this drama in real life, with a wrapping cloth around her waist, she comes out of the wagon were she had sought refugee from the scouring sun upon noticing a prospective client.

One should be forgiven for mistaking her for a well-cultured rural woman, only to be proven wrong when she takes off the wrapping cloth to reveal her inner beauty usually dressed in mini-skirts, skin tight, or a pair of shorts so as to attract her prey.

Hailing from Epworth she says she got into prostitution for a living “I got into prostitution in 2008 after falling out with my sister when I dropped out of school doing form 2, because of pregnancy,” she said.

She says a lot of people tend to think that they do this out of enjoyment, adding that although others might be enjoying it, most of don’t, because the job has a lot of stigma and diseases attached to it.

“I use protection when having sex. Charges range from $2 to $5 a session, but when one insists on unprotected sex, then has to pay more for it (US$10-15 for short time), because that is dicing with death, ” she added.

Another sex worker who is based at the Kopje area and only identified as Dadirai concurs that their work has its own highs and lows. “At times a client can rebuke you after the service, accusing you of not being sexy enough despite him having had enjoyed, and refuse to pay after intimacy.

“To make matters worse, you cannot report it to the police because you can be arrested for it is a crime. Sometimes, one can even be raped, but, still in that case you suffer the pain in silence,” she said.

Zim News tried to talk to some men who allegedly seek the services of sex workers, but most of them declined any involvement. “I am not a client here I was just passing by when she approached me. I am married with a family, I can’t do that,” said a man who was spotted by this news crew coming out from a hideout with a sex worker.

Meanwhile, a human rights activist said despite the act being regarded as immoral, it doesn’t render one less human. She also expressed concern in some stereotypes which put all the blame on the women leaving the men untouched.

“This is discrimination, an infringement of human rights, and gender insensitive, considering that it is only females who get the back lash with the other sex not mentioned at all,” said the activist who declined to be named for fear of being labelled.

Prostitution is a crime in Zimbabwe, and is addressed in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act 2004, under Sexual Crimes and Crimes Against Morality. However, there have been heated debates in the legal circles based on technicalities with some saying the law is not clear on the subject.

In 2015, a Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe bench led by Justice Luke Malaba, delivered what many termed as a landmark ruling. The ruling stopped and outlawed the prosecution of nine women who had been charged under the Act.

Nevertheless, the reasoning behind this judgement was that the arrest of the nine women amounted to the deprivation of one’s liberty as they were arrested for being found in the Avenues area and yet there was no proof that they were in actual effect soliciting for the purposes of prostitution. The men who were allegedly being solicited for by the women were not there to give evidence, so it was legally unsound to convict them.

At the same time of grave concern are disturbing recent cases of children as young as 12 years getting involved into prostitution, and in Zimbabwe this is common in areas like Epworth, mining and border towns, among other areas, as various economic activities expose the young.

According to a gender and women rights expert Virginia Muwanigwa there is nothing like child prostitution, but it is a clear act of child abuse in all the sense of the word, as in the eyes of the law sleeping with someone under the age of majority is child sexual abuse.

In Zimbabwe, prostitution is both illegal and a social ill, which have over the years stirred heated debates, with some sections saying it is not a justifiable cause. Those in this school of thought believe there are many ways to earn a living than engaging into prostitution. Some human rights activists maintain their ground that it doesn’t renders one less human. Most sex workers blame the economic downturn as the reason of their engaging into prostitution.