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Don’t call us hookers: Bulawayo prostitutes

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SEX workers in Bulawayo have demanded respect and urged the public to refrain from calling them “hookers” as they are human beings too.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

Speaking at a workshop organised by Sex Rights Centre (SRC) on Friday in Bulawayo, the sex workers said they were being abused by the media and police despite the fact that they had rights.

“We want to be recognised as human beings. Why do you call us hookers in the first place? We are not hookers, but sex workers,” one sex workers who preferred anonymity said

“I have been doing this job for the past 22 years and I have children at high school. So to me this is a profession.

“The media should treat us fairly, so should the police. Media is busy denigrating us while the police abuse us by arresting us for loitering and after that demand free sex.”

The participants said arresting female commercial sex workers was discriminatory and unfair. They said police should also arrest men for soliciting for sex if they wanted to get rid of the world’s oldest profession.

Abameli Human Rights Lawyers representative Tineyi Mukwena weighed in saying the justice system in Zimbabwe was biased against women.

“There should be justice in Zimbabwe and police should refrain from arresting women for walking the streets just for the ’purpose of prostitution‘. This law is very wrong and is the reason why there is no sex worker who has been convicted for loitering,” he said.

The Constitutional Court recently outlawed the arrest of sex workers for loitering “for purposes of prostitution”, saying as long as there were no men confirming being approached by women for sex, the arrests were unconstitutional.

This followed an application filed by nine Harare women who argued that their arrest in March last year and prosecution on charges of soliciting for prostitution contravened Section 49 (1) (b) and that it was a denial of their fundamental right to the protection of the law as guaranteed in Section 56 (1) of the same charter. Sex workers narrated their ordeal to media practitioners at the same time demanding fair coverage.

They said they had children to take care of and that was the reason they were on the streets. They accused the police of demanding sexual favours from them.

“We have children to look after, but we don’t tell them that we are sex workers. We don’t want them to be like us because of the nature of our profession,” one of them said

Another sex worker who looked quite old (60+/- years) said her husband divorced her and she had to look after the children.

“At first, I did not like this job, but now I do it because I don’t have an option,” she said.

“After my husband divorced me, I had nothing to offer my children, so I chose this profession even though it is
risky.”

They said they had their different associations, but they did not induct children below 18 years of age.

Sexuality, HIV and prostitution have always been contentious subjects in the country.

MDC-T Bulawayo East MP Tabitha Khumalo was known for championing the cause to legalise the world’s oldest profession.

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