‘Sex-workers should be able to retire at 40’
A SEX worker has advocated for a retirement age from sex work and peer enforcement of minimum age restrictions to reduce the exploitation of under-age girls by older women and unruly clients.
A National Aids Council peer educator for sex workers in Gutu district identified as Gire, who is also a sex worker, said through interaction with fellow sex workers, that she refers to as “girls”, she was shocked to meet a 54-year-old woman in the world’s oldest profession.
“This really shocked me and made me think of my mother back at my rural home. We need to empower these girls in sex work so that they retire at 40 at least,” said Gire, a 38-year-old who has been in the trade for years.
The peer educators work with sex workers in Gutu district where they have even convinced authorities to establish a clinic that opens on Tuesdays and Fridays at Gutu Rural Hospital to attend specifically to sex workers.
“We are actually appealing to have more nurses assigned to us because the girls do not want to spend a lot of time at the hospital and be seen by the public or their clients where they could start asking them too many questions,” said Gire.
The sex workers are trained on the importance of safer sex and correct use of condoms, HIV testing and treatment adherence.
However, due to the age difference they sometimes encountered Gire felt some of the older women had to plan for the future and either have steady boyfriends, get married or be looked after by their children as it was not proper for them to continue with sex work into old age.
Asked if such planning interventions had borne any fruit she said while some ladies of the night had constituted themselves into money clubs and various projects, such projects were seldom sustainable beyond the first round of income from the project.
She cited projects such as chicken rearing where after being sponsored to start a project some ladies preferred to share the proceeds from the sale of the initial stock.
She also expressed worry over young girls engaged in sex work since they could not negotiate safer sex with their clients due to unequal power relations.
“The youngest sex worker that died and really broke my heart as we had tried to assist her was 14 years old. She seemed to have been orphaned and was renting a room at a house with other sex workers.
“She had an advanced STI and she was actually rotting when we brought her to hospital. Even the person treating her broke down and cried on seeing that. However, her death last month but one remains a mystery as she died in her room overnight. It is a police case, and she was apparently seven months pregnant at the time of her death,” said Gire.
District Aids Co-ordinator for Gutu District Paska Mukuwe said they had established the sex work sensitisation programme where they work with sex workers in a bid to reduce the risk of contracting STIs and HIV.
“At Gutu Rural Hospital we have established a clinic specifically for the sex workers, where they get treated and access other services, on Tuesdays and Fridays and it came about after consulting them on their preferred days,” said Mukuwe.
He said some older women whose services were no longer on demand, were pimping out younger girls to men, further increasing the risk of HIV transmission.
Usually, officials said such young girls were brought in from remote areas with the promise of a job at the growth point only for them to be introduced to the trade on arrival. B-Metro.