HAPPY TIME FOR SX WORKERS AS POLICE OPERATIONS ARE HALTED
When the Zimbabwe military took over policing operations following the ouster of President Robert Mugabe on November 21, motorists who have borne untold harassment at the hands of traffic police officers celebrated.
But far from the highways, in the city’s byways and streets, commercial sx workers who used to play cat-and-mouse games with the police also celebrated the opportunity to do their work without police harassment.
After the army’s intervention, police officers “disappeared” from the streets as soldiers became overnight heroes.
This saw commercial sx workers, who accuse the police of brutality and extortionist tendencies as well as “sx-for-freedom” deals upon arrest, expressing joy and excitement at the turn of events as police night patrols in the red-light districts ceased.
Commercial sx workers are hopeful the army and police joint operation to restore order, which was recently announced, will have positive effect on how they are treated by some law enforcement agents.
A sx worker, who identified herself as Sharon, said she saw a surge in business and her daily takings increased.
“I experienced a high boom in my business in the past weeks like never before because police could not rob us our money. Our clients could feel free. Everything ran smoothly,” she said.
A snap survey conducted by NewsDay Weekender showed that commercial sx workers often suffered tremendous abuse from the police.
Another sx worker operating at Kambuzuma Section 5 shopping centre said she was pleased with the advent of military policing because the environment was now favourable for business.
“We are very excited because police officers have stopped to victimising us. We are now operating freely without losing our money to police through bribes or risks of getting ra_ped and the way police treated us should change when things get back to normal,” she said.
The sex workers in Kambuzuma used deserted buildings and cabins close to nightclubs for their “sxcapades”.
“Police officers used to come here daily to raid our bases where we pay a certain fee for every session and if caught in action they would then ask our clients to give them a bribe or risk arrest,” she said, adding that once the police released the client, they would turn to the sx worker and demand free sx.
Another sx worker, Sally, confirmed the abuse, which she said exposed them to se_xually transmitted infections.
“They can be two officers asking for free sx. If we deny them, we risk losing all the money we would have worked for that day, so we end up giving in,” she said.
She described the sx trade as of paramount significance to them as they pay rentals and provide food for themselves and their families out of it.
With the coming of military policing, problems which were being faced by commercial sx workers have since vanished from the scene.
Human rights activists have in the past been in the media blaming police officers as great abusers of commercial sx workers thus violating the rights of women enshrined in the Constitution.
The Constitutional Court in 2015 only banned the arrest of women on charges of soliciting for inti_macy in the absence of male customers confirming they were offered the service for a fee.
Although the court did not legalise the sx trade, it barred police officers from unnecessarily harassing women suspected to be soliciting for sx without proof.
A commercial sx worker who operates in Mutare, Maka, hailed the military for taking over policing duties.
“Thumbs up to the military which barred corrupt and vicious police officers from sxually abusing and robbing us,” she said,
Women’s Action and Support Centre (WASC) director Musline Munodawafa, said they had heard reports on the abuse of commercial sx workers by the police.
“We have heard about that, it is not only in Mutare but in most parts of the country. However, currently we do not have tangible evidence to take action against the alleged abusers,” she said.
Munodawafa said they were part of Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe which is pushing the government to legalise the sx trade in the country.
She said WSAC had identified problems which force women and young girls to join the bandwagon of sx workers in the country resulting in sxual abused and set strategies to combat such.
“As WASC, we are empowering women through giving them access to loans, skills training and access to information. Economic empowerment plays a vital role in poverty alleviation as they become entrepreneurs and innovators,” she said.