Zimbabwe: Poverty lures women into the old profession

By Tapiwanashe Dumba – Poverty was written all over their faces, flies swarm around them as if to say “don’t worry everything will be fine”, this has led their mothers to seek refuge under the arm of prostitution.

Arriving at the place where the vast majority of prostitutes that have crowded Juru Growth Point stay ,we saw   a dilapidated shop which was built in times of the colonial regime, but inside it was divided by cardboard boxes into eight small apartments which accommodated  eight families.

Eliza a single mom, jobless, uneducated but her wish is to change the lives of his kids. She is only 22 but she has sired 4 kids with different men, a situation which has driven her to turn into the mother of all profession.

“I was forced to turn into prostitution because of a number of inevitable situations that are beyond my control that l have encountered in my life” she started.

“Am a mother of four and my children they have different fathers and all of them have failed to take responsibility of their children”

It’s a wish of every mother to take care of her own blood therefore despite the hard economic conditions that are prevalent in the country it has forced many ladies to venture into the arena of prostitution.

Prostitutes where once known as the ladies of the night however the situation has changed it is now a broad day light activity.

“Anytime is tea time and we charge from fifty cents to two dollars for a short time it is now an issue of hand to mouth if l feed myself and my kids then that is enough for me”

Although she has turned to this profession for survival it also difficult and challenging for them to get genuine clients since some many are taking advantage of them.

 A whirlpool of negative emotions over took her and she started to lament some of the challenges that she has faced which are heartbreaking and shocking.

She said that sometimes she sleeps with her clients in the presence of her little kids a situation that even she doesn’t like because of its psychological toll on her own beautiful kids.

“Even am a prostitute l don’t want my kids to do the same l want the best for them”

One of the worst experiences that she encountered was when she was raped in the presence of her three year old daughter.

She said that one day when she was coming from the growth point with her three year old daughter during the night going to the place where she resides ,two men just emerged from the nearby bush and knocked her down the other one then grabbed  the phone that she was holding and the other one undressed her and he penetrated into her into her whilst her daughter stood witnessing  and helpless as the man penetrated into her and the daughter started crying when she saw her mother in agonizing pain. She was saved by a passing car which flashed its headlights and immediately the two men vanished into the bush.

Many prostitutes in the area have faced similar predicaments, some of them includes being knifed by their clients after failing to reach paying agreements , some of them being forced to have unprotected sex by their clients at knife position  and some of them being used for free.

Such was the sorry state of the world they are living in even prostitutes are being raped.

After she lamented her story she introduced us to one of the oldest prostitutes in that area (name withheld) she was lying in her apartment she had sunken eyes and cheeks she was a skeletal being waiting for her fate, her  breathing evidenced that she was in deep excruciating pain.

“Am HIV/AIDS positive and it is this job that has held me captive behind the bars of HIV/AIDS” she said.

Mucus rose in her throat and she choked it back and she said that go out there and tell your fellow youths that HIV is real it’s not just a gospel that is being preached but its reality. There was a silence of grief in the apartment and she looked at us as if to say your body, your life, your choice and she went into a slumber.

One of the residents who has resided in the area for more than fifteen years Eunice Muchera said that the community has over the years been afflicted by the cancerous cycle of prostitution and the numbers are increasing affecting even teenagers that have dropped out of school for various reasons.

“My heart bleeds for teenagers who are sleeping with older men so that they can get something to eat at the expense of their own health”

The proliferation of prostitution in Juru has been worsened by the harsh economic conditions that are prevailing in the country.

Mai Muchera said that if we are to trace back the footsteps of these problems they will lead us back to the doorstep of harsh economic conditions therefore appealing to the government and well wishers to empower girls with projects and adequate funding so that they abandon the profession and start to earn a living in an honored manner

In a SAFAIDS survey published in 2001called MEN AND HIV IN ZIMABWE it states that in Zimbabwe they are an increase in numbers of children that are growing up uneducated, illiterate, and unsocialized a generation of young adults unskilled and unable to contribute to the society and therefore a clear majority of them they turn to other means of earning a living such as commercial sex work.

Since woman are more vulnerable to prostitution than men the report further outlines that the fact women are poorer that men is one of the underlying causes of the HIV/AIDS pandemic whether or not they are aware of it, society often forces woman into short term or long term sexual situations which place them and their partners at risk of HIV transmission. These problems have therefore played a mother role in contributing to the spawning of prostitution at the place.

It also highlights that women under the age of twenty are particularly vulnerable to HIV because their vaginal tracts have not fully matured and offer less protection from the disease. Therefore teens at that place should be rescued sooner than later so that they turn away from this menace as they are putting their lives at higher risk.

Prostitution is one of the key drivers that have caused a high number in orphans and vulnerable children in that place as most of the children are being left orphaned and homeless due to the devastating HIV/AIDS pandemic.