Mukuvisi River “transition” zone for young sex workers

Stories have been told of the cheapest sex workers along Mukuvisi River in Harare and how they use the shrubby canopy of the river as a haven for their operations - but little attention has been given to the circumstances that drove them to join the world’s oldest profession.

Informal surveys carried out by The Zimbabwean show that most of them are young girls who have recently “graduated” from street life. The young sex workers are using the area as a stepping stone to integrate back into society.

Straight from the streets, they use the river as a love nest to gather enough money to find accommodation in low-income areas such as Epworth.

Chido Mhunga (not her real name), 15, who was born in Harare’s streets, hopes that Mukuvisi will provide her with the transition to a life that she has always dreamt of.

“I have been here for only two weeks and it seems things are moving in the right direction for me. I was born to a blind and homeless mother and have spent most of my life on the streets of Harare depending on begging and bin scavenging”.

“Imagine, I have already managed to raise enough money to start living in a single room with my mother and younger sister,” she said.

“I don’t have to be begging on the streets all the time again. I got the idea from a friend who came here (Mukuvisi) two months ago and whose life has clearly changed. My plan is not to work permanently sex worker; I want to obtain a passport and become a cross-border trader,” she said, adding that she will find some way to obtain a birth certificate.

She narrated how she always wished for a roof over her head and how badly she cherishes formal education.

“I know it’s very difficult for me to ever be enrolled in a formal school but these are some of the things I have wished for in my life. Now, I am happy that at least I have a shelter that I always wished for and, hopefully, I will continue to have clients so that l will be able to look after my mother and little sister,” she added.

Another girl, who only identified herself as Jessie and refused to give her age, although she appeared to be in her mid-teens, bragged that, despite charging her clients modest amounts of money for sexual favours, she was making enough to get by.

“Why would you want to know where I stay? All you have to know is that I moved off the streets in January,” she said defiantly.

Unlike Chido, she is not looking beyond sex work, instead planning to graduate to the Avenues area in central Harare where she said ladies of the night were making a fortune by engaging rich clients.

“On average I take home $30 per day and intend to concentrate on buying clothes and cosmetics so that I can compete with those ladies in the avenues,” she said.

Edinah Masiyiwa, the Director of Women’s Action Group, has said older men who take girls from Mukuvisi should be prosecuted because they are taking advantage of the social and economic background of these women and girls.

“These girls are in a very difficult situation and whoever is engaging them for sexual services is committing a crime and should be prosecuted,” she said. “They are taking advantage of their desperate situation, caused by tough economic circumstances, which tend to affect women more than men.”

However, prosecuting the offenders might be difficult as the girls do not cooperate with the police, who hardly patrol the area.

Post published in: News
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