The decision to pull out of the country’s most prestigious showcase will not be on account of the economic crisis, which has eroded incomes.
The sex workers, who turned heads at ZITF last year, said they cannot stand the stinging criticism they received during their inaugural exhibition.
“I am not sure if we will participate this year. You know what happened last year…it’s really difficult, so we are yet to consider that, but if anything happens we will update you,” said Sipho Khumalo, the legal support officer for Sexual Rights Centre (SRC).
The commercial sex workers took part at ZITF 2018 with support from SRC, an organisation that defends minority rights.
SRC used the exhibition to educate society on the day-to-day challenges faced by sex workers in the work that they do.
It was the first time in ZITF’s 50-year-long history that sex workers were allowed to take up space.
Under former president Robert Mugabe’s regime, this would have been impossible as this was considered a taboo.
It was arguably one of the busiest stands as it was swamped with all kinds of visitors from the young to the old.
Over 3 000 boxes of male condoms and over 100 female condoms were distributed during the exhibition.
The sex workers got support from organisations such as Women Against All Forms of Discrimination, the Zimbabwe Aids Network and the National Aids Council, among others.
At last year’s ZITF, respected lawyer and prominent opposition figure, David Coltart, was the first to throw the cat among pigeons with his tweet against the sex workers’ exhibition.
“Sex workers show off work at ZITF. Is this what we have been reduced to in Zimbabwe? ZITF used to showcase our great manufacturing companies — now it exhibits prostitution, soldiers and Zanu PF,” he tweeted.
The sex workers did not take Coltart’s tweet lightly as they also responded via the same social media platform.
SRC said sex work, as an industry, has potential to contribute to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“Sex work has a lot of potential in contributing to the GDP, case in point Amsterdam. Think logically and see that most striving world economies are in fact benefiting from legalising sex work,” SRC tweeted.
Meanwhile, the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (Galz) also appears to have chickened out of ZITF 2019.
Galz last year hinted on taking part at this years’ fair.“Yes we had promised that we will consider participating, however, it’s not in our plans for 2019,” Galz director Chester Samba curtly said. Daily News.