SEX workers in Bulawayo have accused some cops of physical and verbal abuse upon arrest.
Speaking at an Abammeli Lawyers for Human Rights workshop in the city last week, sex workers accused the police of insulting them and asking for sexual favours as well as forcing them to perform various chores at the police station while in custody.
“Some members of the police usually either ask for sex while holding us in the cells.
“If we refuse to sleep with them they verbally attack us by calling us names such as whores or prostitutes,” a sex worker who only identified herself as Mazi said at the conference.
The Constitution states that any person arrested must be treated humanely with respect for their inherent dignity.
Another participant identified as Karen said they were made to clean cells or the police stations where they would be held.
The programmes co-ordinator of Abammeli, Tineyi Mukwewa, said the actions of the police were not in tandem with the Bill of Rights, especially the provisions that speak about the right to human dignity.
“Sex workers have rights and the police need to treat them as humanely as possible. They should not be degraded by any person or authority,” Mukwewa said.
The act of selling or buying sex is not criminalised in Zimbabwe, but the police have a tendency of carrying out various sting operations against women patronising bars and night clubs as well as those walking the streets at night accusing them of contravening Section 8 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23 (loitering for the purposes of prostitution).
Bulawayo in particular has seen an explosion in the number of sex workers due to rising unemployment as a result of to massive company closures.
This has seen young girls, most of them orphans, venturing into the world’s oldest profession despite its known risks such as HIV and Aids.