ZIMBABWEAN women are engaging in blatant prostitution in Botswana to eke-out a living, on a “good day” sleeping with up to 10 different men, The Botswana Gazette has reported.
Sleeping with 10 different clients enables them raise up to 3000 Pulas a day, it was reported.
“If People with degrees cannot find work, what more of people like us? asked Sethunya
“When I see my son staring at me with innocent eyes pleading for me to do something to relieve his hungers pangs, I cannot help but trade in the only thing that I have.
“I am a mother who is unemployed; my children need to eat but I cannot afford to feed them,” Pretty, a sex worker, told The Gazette team when we interviewed her.
She continues: “On a good day I have over ten clients and make over P3000.” She notes that to fight the spread of HIV/Aids every sex worker should always use a condom although this is a challenge as some customers do not want to use them. “The truth is, we try to stick to condom use every day, but if someone offers a higher price and I know my fridge is empty, I don’t have a choice but to take the offer.”
Sethunya, 30, says she started being a sex worker at 15 when she used to hang out with older men who introduced her to money. When she did not do well at school in Form II her poor family could not afford to send her to a private school; she had to fend for herself and also look after her family.
“Many people with degrees and diplomas are unemployed; what of someone like me who doesn’t have any qualification. I have searched for work and given up; that’s why I went into the sex trade.”
These women in their thirties have become friends; Barbara from Zimbabwe is the bubbly one who says she has been a sex worker for about five years, having fled Zimbabwe in search of a better life. She says when she started she was HIV negative, but two years later she was infected with the virus. She does not seem to be bothered about this and says her real boyfriend knows that she is a sex dealer. “My boyfriend knows my work and if he visits me and a customer calls me, I just ask him to leave the house so that I can do my business and he will come back later. He knows that I have to make a living.”
The police and nurses are their enemies; they say they are harassed by the police and nurses; sometimes policemen take advantage of them because they cannot report them because sex work is illegal. “The police are always after us; they arrest us, sometimes we sleep with them to let us go. Nurses will not treat us because they say we deserve to be sick because we trade in sex. Our job puts our health at risk and this means we seek medical attention more than any other individual due to sexually transmitted infections (STI),” said Pretty.
The women cannot open bank accounts to save what they earn. “Usually we spend the cash on cosmetics to beautify our selves so that we attract more customers,” Sethunya noted.
They their work is addictive; the more you do it, there’s no turning back. Sethunya says, “even though we want out, it is not that easy; if there were enough jobs for everyone we would not be doing sex work.” They also argue that while the police arrest them, their customers are never pursued.
The women want their trade to be legalised and fully support president Festus Mogae’s call at the recent National Aids Council that prostitution should be legalised as a way to fight the spread of HIV/Aids.
Mogae said police officers have better things to do than chase after commercials sex workers. Member of Parliament Botlhogile Tshireletso also noted that even though some people seem to be in denial, the business exists and she knows some people who buy sex.
The Botswana Council of Churches with Kgolagano Most at Risk Populations (BCC/MAPS), consisting of approximately 1000 commercials sex worker-members have already set the pace; they help the sex workers with advice and provide them with condoms to emphasise protection at all times. (BCC/MAPS) say they are willing to help the women to quit the trade, but would only be able to do so if they had money to help the women to start up new business that can sustain them.
To empower the sex works BCC/ MAPS, started by joint churches two years ago, teaches the women skills in computer use, cooking and beadwork.
The sex workers believe that decriminalisation of their work would help them to be organised, and afford them with protection from the law.
Those who are against the legalisation of commercial sex believe it is immoral.
“We should make decisions based on reality because even though commercial sex is immoral it exists,” said Segametsi Tshwantshang, a Gaborone resident.
*The names of the sex workers have been changed to protect their identity. The Zimdiaspora/ The Botswana Gazette