Saturday, 5 November 2016

HOOKERS FLEE HARARE TO RURAL OUTPOSTS

DOZENS of sex workers are migrating from THE bright lights of Harare, where business has been on the wane, to Mtawatawa Growth Point in Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe (UMP) where business is said to be brisk and competition for clients not as stiff as in the capital’s hot sex spots.

Following a court order compelling police to abide by the law and not arbitrarily arrest women alleged to be soliciting for purposes of prostitution in the streets, there has been a flood of sex workers. This has been exacerbated by the spiralling economy that has seen many unemployed girls and young women resort to the sex trade to survive.

For the sex workers, these circumstances have created what they call ‘stiff competition’ for the ‘dwindling number of clients’ in cities and major towns.

At 19, Thandeka is one of those who have settled at Mtawatawa. Together with her sister, she has booked a room at Marekera Night Club for $5 a night.

Her room, a three by three metre cubicle with a rickety single bed and a table, is where she brings her clients. On the floor are used condoms.

Tonight, Thandeka has had one too many beers and still has a bottle full of Viceroy Brandy on the small table as she starts to narrate her story while sitting on the bed and resting her head on the wall that appears to have seen any scrubbing ages ago.

“I realised if I get this room for $5 a night, and I charge $10 to a client for the night, then I have $5 in my pocket, and on good days like Fridays, I can manage $20 on short-time sessions,” she said.

Barely 20, she is probably young enough to have been in college, but her story is just like that of many other girls.

“I dropped out of school, and I had a baby at 17. He lives with my parents back in Budiriro, Harare, after the father refused to take responsibility,” she said.

A former child bride, Thandeka believes sex work is her last choice to enable her to pick up the pieces of her life.

She is not alone here at Mtawatawa as dozens of other girls appear young, and as the night wears off, they get wasted and wiggle and wobble on the dusty dance floor, and no sooner do they start to disappear to the backrooms with men who would have fancied them.

Perhaps the biggest attraction for the sex workers is that Mtawatawa is close to a small-scale mine, and generally the area has alluvial gold deposits in the rivers around.

So, villagers who pan their gold usually sell it at Mtawatawa and from the small proceeds they get, they can afford a few moments of pleasure with the sex workers.

Like her friends who have come from Harare, Thandeka is virtually a migrant, and travels from place to place.
“I am not here to stay long. I go wherever there is good business, but I can tell you, these rural centres have good business,” she said, indicating that she was previously at Mt Darwin centre.


Earlier, this reporter travelled to Mwenezi, and witnessed a similar trend of migration of sex workers to centres where there is more business. The young women’s ages ranged between 17 and 21, with a number of them being former child brides who failed to receive requisite counselling and support and ended up turning to sex work.

A lot of effort has been made to curtail child marriages, with a law being recently promulgated to ban marriages of girls under 18, but this has been weighed down by the harsh economic conditions and a shortage of capacity to raise awareness on the issue.

As the clock ticks into the night, Thandeka defies the effects of the alcohol and walks to the main beerhall to seek a client for the night. Young and beautiful, she is confident of getting one. According to her, UMP is not such as bad place after all. newsday

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