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Tough Times: S.ex Workers Accepting Food as Payment

Some s.ex workers in Zimbabwe are now accepting buckets of maize and cups of beans as payment from their cash-strapped male clients. Accordi...

Some s.ex workers in Zimbabwe are now accepting buckets of maize and cups of beans as payment from their cash-strapped male clients.

According to online publication, the New Zimbabwe at Dema growth point in Seke rural, s.ex workers appealed to the government and other organisations for low-interest loans to start income-generating projects to fend for their starving families.

“Gone are the days when we used to charge US$5 for the whole night. These days even one dollar is accepted, so that you are able to buy vegetables and tomatoes and cook something for your starving children,” one of the s.ex workers, who only identified herself as Alice, said.

She said she has three children, one of which is doing Form 4. The child needs ZIMSEC (Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council) registration fees while the other kids are in Grade 7 and Grade One.

“I now even accept a bucket of maize or cups of dried beans as payment for sex services. At least I am assured that my kids will have porridge.”

Another s.ex worker only identified as Mavis said she could have opted to be a house helper but the local people do not pay.
Thigh Vendors are Facing Tough Times 
The s.ex workers, who spoke to the publication were attending a Key Affected Populations (KAP) workshop meant to find ways of reducing HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The seminar was convened by the National Aids Council (NAC) at Dema growth point.

The NAC District AIDS coordinator for Seke Florence Nyandoro, said apart from teaching sexual and reproductive rights, they were also training sex workers on financial education.

Ordinary Zimbabweans say life is difficult, with high inflation, rocketing prices for basic goods, electricity and petrol, and lagging salaries. 

Forced to stay home for weeks without any source of income, Zimbabwe’s sex workers, like many other informal traders, are beginning to defy the country’s lockdown and return to the streets.

Risking arrest and the coronavirus, many are working afternoons because some clients are at home due to a general night curfew.

Like many informal traders, s.ex workers bribe police at numerous roadblocks to get into downtown Harare. According to a recent report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, street traders are paying up to $5 a day to police to be allowed to operate without being arrested.

“The majority of the people, including s.ex workers, are now agitated and hungry and this is what is pushing them to leave their houses,” said Itai Rusike, executive director of the Harare-based Community Working Group on Health. He attributed the increased defiance of the lockdown on “laxity in enforcement, fatigue and hunger.”

Coronavirus restrictions have made s.ex work riskier as women have been unable to get free condoms from their usual clinics and illegal brothels in residential areas and downtown nightclubs have closed.

Prostitution in Zimbabwe and related acts, including solicitation, procuring, and keeping a brothel, are illegal but thriving. Zimbabwe's dire economic situation has forced many women into s.ex work.

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