Zimbabwean women sell sex for food in Mozambique

23/05/2008 03:20 CHIMOIO, Mozambique, May 23 (AFP)
http://www.africasia.com/services/news/newsitem.php?area=africa&item=080523032052.dqqbmkhf.php

Mother-of-two Nyasha, desperate to put food on the table for her family back home in Zimbabwe, turned to prostitution in neighbouring Mozambique after being told that it was a surefire way of earning US dollars. ‘The money is little, but if I save it properly I will be able to send groceries that will sustain my family for some days,’ the 23-year-old told AFP in the central Mozambican town of Chimoio. ‘We can not find jobs back home and here we do not have identification papers and that is why many women have opted for prostitution,’ she added.

Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown has driven millions from the country in search of a better life, but the sleazy hotels over the border in Mozambique show the pitfalls for many migrant women. Hotel Madrinha in Chimoio used to be a respectable cheap hotel for travellers on a budget but is now full of Zimbabwean women who have a reputation for offering ‘the cheapest rates in town,’ says one local. ‘I got the information from friends that prostitution is a lucrative business in Mozambique and that one can earn US dollars,’ continued Nyasha.’I decided to come, but I have not earned any real dollars.’

Chimoio is located less than 200 kilometres (130 miles) from the Zimbabwean border and is a stopping off point for truck drivers en route for neighbouring countries Malawi and Zambia with Mozambique’s port of Beira.

The influx of prostitutes has begun to worry organisations working in the sexual health sector, says Faruk Aboobakar, a senior officer in a non-governmental health initiative called the Geracacao Biz programme. ‘We have a problem here,’ he said, referring to an increasing perception among locals that most Zimbabwean women in the area are prostitutes. Fortunately, in terms of sexual health, Aboobakar said that investigations showed most of the women insisted on the use of condoms.

Julia Alfredo, a 25-year-old mother of three who lives near the hotel, says she is concerned about the impact of the influx of Zimbabweans on her children. ‘We are afraid our children will think every Zimbabwean woman they see is a sexual worker,’ she said. ‘We accept they are having problems in their country but resorting to this type of life is not the solution, they need to find other means of earning a living.’

The women who spoke to AFP said they were drawn by the possibility of earning money to send home, but most of them struggled to earn the equivalent of 20 US dollars (13 euros) a day. At times they get paid as little as US 0.50 cents for sex acts. The Zimbabwean economy has collapsed in the last decade, with inflation now running at 165,000 percent and the unemployment rate at 80 percent. The free fall came after veteran President Robert Mugabe embarked on a controversial land reform programme that saw thousands of white-owned farms expropriated by the state.

While in their native Zimbabwe women selling sex could be arrested, Mozambique laws do not consider prostitution as a criminal act. Mildred, a 33-year-old single mother of three, says she was ashamed when she started out as a prostitute but she has since got used to the demands of the profession. ‘I had never dreamed of sleeping with men for the sake of money or gifts. But now life is tough in Zimbabwe and in order to survive one needs to be innovative,’ she said, asking to be identified only by first name.

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CA: Unveiled, unyielding and unashamed

Alumnae tap into own experiences to help sex workers seeking to leave or improve industry

Under the stage name Monique, Harmony Dust would dance naked on tables for leering men who would pay her $20 a song and who often tried to touch her.

But Dust was feisty: She demanded her respect, even if others weren’t so keen on granting it.

“The first time that someone touched me after I told them not to, all of the rage inside of me that had been pent up inside of me for all of those years came out, and I picked my stiletto up and beat him in the head and knocked him off the chair,” Dust said.

Now, the UCLA alumna is happily married and pregnant, and she runs Treasures, a support group she started four years ago to aid women in the sex industry.

But she wasn’t always so lucky.

“I come from a background of sexual abuse and rape, and really found myself looking to others for the value in myself, namely men,” Dust said, adding that the abusive relationship she was in only added to her dwindling self-esteem.

At 19 years old, Dust was the sole supporter of her older boyfriend, who had racked up about $35,000 in debt. With her hope crumbling, Dust listened to the advice of a friend who suggested that she become a stripper – they made a lot of money, after all.

Haunted by the idea, Dust pitched the possibility to a psychology professor, who did not work at UCLA, whom she respected and trusted.

“I kind of hoped that he would say, ‘Don’t do that, you’re worth more – you have a career in front of you.’ But instead he said, ‘You don’t have to put it on your resume, I don’t see a problem with it.’” Dust said.

She was mortified when he showed up at the club a couple weeks later, promptly requesting a table dance.

“I didn’t really have a lot of hope in men at that time in my life, but here was someone whom I really put on a pedestal. … It kind of destroyed my faith in the male species,” Dust said.

Dust lived without hope for three years, attending class in glasses and a sweatshirt during the day to make sure she wasn’t recognized.

“I didn’t want to be seen as attractive,” Dust said, adding that the day hours gave her time to study.

But when night came around, she would pack up her stilettos and expect to make between $500 and $1,000 dollars winding her body around a pole.

Dust applied her study ethic to her work – she continually challenged herself to get through the night by raising her personal goals.

“I didn’t enjoy stripping very much, so I had to find ways to make it tolerable, and one of those ways was to challenge myself personally,” Dust said.

She recalled how clumsy she was when she first stumbled half-naked into the red lights to Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

“I was going from pole to pole, trying to make sure I didn’t fall on my face,” Dust said. “I thought for sure they were going to say, ‘Oh forget it, she’s like this awkward 19-year-old.’”

But instead, the manager offered her the job on the spot.

From then on, Dust used the time after her shift to practice her pole work, enlisting the help of fellow dancers to help her practice her moves.

By the time she quit three years later, Dust was one of the top earners at the club.

“At first, I felt kind of empowered. … I thought, ‘All of these years, I’ve been objectified. All of these years, I’ve had people looking at me and treating me like an object, and now I’m getting paid for it.’ … But as time went on, I just started feeling more and more out of control. All I have is money to show for it at the end of the shift,” Dust said.

So when she heard Prince’s “Purple Rain,” blasting over the loud speakers once again, she knew it was time to go.

But Mariko Passion, a self-described “urban geisha,” UCLA alumna and sex-worker activist, said she sees sex work in a more positive, not to mention empowering, way.

As the founder of the UCLA chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project and a paid escort, Passion said she uses her sexual experiences with her clients as a form of therapy.

“I have always been very proud of who I am and what I do. It helps me to really come into touch with my sexuality,” Passion said.

She said that some of the perks included when working in the sex industry include travel opportunities, flexible hours and, of course, good pay.

During the day, Passion devotes her time to running the project, focusing on major issues surrounding the sex-worker community, such as AIDS prevention, business and the ambitious plan to decriminalize prostitution.

“We should wield all profits from the usage of our bodies. We should get residuals, just like everybody else, but there’s nobody who’s really teaching the business aspect of this,” Passion says, citing what she calls the “whore’s religion” of bodily self-ownership.

Passion started the project in Southern California while she was a graduate student at UCLA. Now that she’s graduated, the program has expanded, taking money from the state to test sex workers for AIDS.

“A lot of people think that if you take away everything from sex workers, they’ll just go away,” Passion said.

Mina Zhi, another member of the program and a paid dominatrix, said she agrees.

“I don’t think that a lot of sex workers are knowledgeable that they have rights,” Zhi said.

She says that her work is a form of treatment for her clients, many of whom have psychological issues with female dominance.

“People get really emotional around me and cry. … If someone has a lot of emotional baggage, I let them get it all out.” Zhi said.

Among the fetish services that she’s provided: tickling fetishes, stocking fetishes, shaving fetishes and even pie fetishes.

Zhi recalls standing in stilettos while aiming a banana cream pie at a certain client, while shaving her armpits for another.

“Most of these clients are very lonely. … They can’t live out their fantasies on a daily basis,” Zhi said.

Zhi, who chooses her own clients, said she feels that sex work has empowered her.

“Some people just want the company of a woman,” she said.

She said the project serves as a place for her to network, for others who share the same type of passion for sex work. It’s not a place for “transitioning,” but for accepting sex work as a legitimate and respectable trade.

But for those who just want to get out of the X-rated lifestyle, Harmony Dust has been a beacon of hope to those not fortunate enough to help themselves.

Armed with a slew of volunteers and a barrage of goody bags, she’ll hit dozens of clubs in one night, spreading one simple message: “You are loved, and we are here to support you.”

http://www.dailybruin.com/news/2008/may/23/unveiled-unyielding-and-unashamed/

NZ: Review finds no sign of more sex workers since Act passed

2:50PM Friday May 23, 2008

The number of sex workers in New Zealand does not appear to have increased since legislation decriminalising prostitution became law, according to a new report.

The Prostitution Law Review Committee was set up to report on the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 three to five years after the Act came into force.

Its report, published today, was based on work carried out by the Christchurch School of Medicine and Victoria University’s Crime and Justice Research Centre.

The committee, chaired by former Police Assistant Commissioner Paul Fitzharris, said an accurate count of the number of sex workers was difficult.

However, a comparison between the number of sex workers in Christchurch in 1999, before decriminalisation, and 2006 – after the Act was passed – showed the total had stayed approximately the same.

A 2007 estimate of numbers of sex workers in five centres – Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hawke’s Bay and Nelson – found a total of 2332 sex workers, the committee said.

 

 

Numbers of sex workers should continued to be monitored, it said.

Around 93 per cent of sex workers cited money as the reason for getting into and staying in the sex industry.

“The most significant barriers to exiting are loss of income, reluctance to lose the flexible working hours available in the sex industry and the camaraderie and sense of belonging that some sex workers describe.”

The committee said a Christchurch School of Medicine survey of sex workers found that more than 90 per cent felt they had legal rights under the Act.

More than 60 per cent felt they were more able to refuse to provide commercial sexual services to a particular client since the enactment of the law.

Prior to the Act, the illicit status of the sex industry meant sex workers were open to coercion and exploitation by managers, pimps and clients.

Research indicated there had been “some improvement” in employment conditions “but this is by no means universal”.

Generally, brothels which had treated their workers fairly before the Act continued to do so while those that did not continued to have unfair management practices, it said.

“The committee recommends that the sex industry, with the help of the Department of Labour and others, moves towards written, best practice employment contracts…becoming standard for sex workers working in brothels.”

Other findings included that the majority of sex workers felt the Act could do little about violence that occurred, although a significant majority felt there had been an improvement since the passing of the Act.

The legislation made it an offence to arrange for or to receive, or facilitate or receive payment for, commercial sexual services from a person under 18.

The committee said the threshold of 18 should remain.

It found 1.3 per cent of sex workers were under age but did not believe the Act had resulted in more under age people working in the industry.

Other recommendations included that the Government provide additional funding to the Ministry of Health to enable medical officers of health to carry out regular inspections of brothels.

It also said the Government should provide funding so that non-government organisations could provide services to the industry, including assistance with exiting for those that wanted to get out of sex work.

Associate justice minister Lianne Dalziel said the report showed the Act had had a positive effect on the health and safety of sex workers and had not led to an increase in numbers of sex workers as predicted by critics of the law reform.

Labour senior whip Tim Barnett, who shepherded the bill through Parliament, said he had developed the amendment introducing a review process to ensure the debate after law reform was not driven by its opponents telling untruths about its impacts.

– NZPA

This story was found at: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=144&objectid=10512123

South Africa: Sex girls in fear of Police ‘rapists’

May 2008Nkosana
Lekotjolo

STREET BUSINESS: Prostitutes openly ply their trade in Schoeman Street,
Pretoria. PHOTO: MUNTU VILAKAZI

‘The regular cops come on Friday nights and demand money or sex from us’

‘These women often fail to back up their claims’H62

The lives of prostitutes are fraught with the danger of being raped and they are often threatened with firearms and knives. This is compounded by claims of violence and abuse at the hands of the police. These are some of the research findings of the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat).The group’s researcher, Nicole Fick, said prostitutes are in no position to insist that their clients should use condoms, which puts them at risk of HIV-Aids.

She said the fact that prostitution has been criminalised exposes the women to danger because of lack of legal protection.“The problem is compounded by police abusing them,” Fick said.“The fact that many prostitutes hide what they do provides leverage for those who want to exploit them. This lack of disclosure of their work could have a negative impact on the quality of protection they receive.”

There is an increase in prostitutes being raped, assaulted, arrested without being charged, and pepper-sprayed by the police, Sweat said. A 2004 study by Sweat showed that one in three of the women who made statements to the organisation told of being forced to have sex with police officers or of their knowledge of other prostitutes who had been forced to have sex. The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) said it is investigating about 24 cases of rape against police officers.

Nationally, police rape statistics stood at 52617, with Gauteng leading at 11114 in the 2006/2007 financial year. The figure is inclusive of all reported rape cases. ICD spokesman Dikeledi Phiri confirmed that rape cases against SAPS members were opened during the same period. However, she said: “It is difficult to say how many rape cases we have received so far this year because we only investigate the failure to assist by members of the police. I am looking at the nature of all these cases, convictions, and how many are still under investigation.“

If the investigation reveals improper performance of duties or failure to assist complainants by an officer, steps are taken against the member and the case will receive the necessary attention and be investigated, either by police or the ICD.”

But Sweat and the prostitutes say many of the cases of rape and abuse they open against the police disappear into thin air. Thokozile Ntuli* is one of the prostitutes who works around Johannesburg and complained about being repeatedly raped and abused by the police. She said the police pick them up from their hotel rooms, flats, malls, and in the streets where they work, only to lock them up and abuse them. She said: “There is one policeman who comes to my flat and rapes me repeatedly. “The police mostly come on Friday nights and demand money or sex from us. “They come in their vans and private cars. They know where we live and come to demand that we sleep with them.”

Another prostitute, Palesa Mooki*, said the police often collect them where they work, put them in the cells and demand money and sex in exchange for their release. “They pick us up from Hillbrow, Sandton and Rosebank . Most of these police who come to abuse us are regulars and we know them. The problem is whenever we report our cases the police simply do nothing about them.”

Sowetan spoke to five prostitutes in the inner city of Johannesburg.They all complained about police going to the streets where they worked, especially on Friday and weekend nights, stealing their money, threatening, arresting and demanding sex from them.

Gauteng police spokesman Eugene Opperman said the prostitutes who accused police of abuse and rape were preventing the police from doing their work.

“Most of these prostitutes who accuse the police of rape often fail to back up their claims with medical evidence. We are saying that if they feel the police are failing them, they must go to the station commander, the ICD and even to the national police office to complain,” he said.

* Not their real names. 

Policeman cleared of assault charges 23 May 2008Nkosana Lekotjolo

Last year a Sunnyside, Pretoria, policeman accused of brutally assaulting a prostitute walked free. The policeman allegedly assaulted the prostitute and smashed her head against the police van until she lost consciousness. This was reportedly after the victim refused to get into the van.The Gauteng commander of the police’s organised crime unit, Simon Mapeyane, said yesterday the ICD found the policeman not guilty.

http://www.sowetan.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=77154423

NZ: Positive review for sex trade legalisation

Last updated 15:15 23/05/2008

The number of sex workers in New Zealand does not appear to have increased since legislation decriminalising prostitution became law, according to a new report.

The Prostitution Law Review Committee was set up to report on the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 three to five years after the Act came into force.

Its report, published today, was based on work carried out by the Christchurch School of Medicine and Victoria University’s Crime and Justice Research Centre.

The committee, chaired by former Police Assistant Commissioner Paul Fitzharris, said an accurate count of the number of sex workers was difficult.

However, a comparison between the number of sex workers in Christchurch in 1999, before decriminalisation, and 2006 – after the Act was passed – showed the total had stayed approximately the same. Continue reading

Database plan to bug phones, email

http://news.aol.co.uk/database-plan-to-bug-phones-email/article/20080519231209990008

Ministers are to consider plans for a giant database of electronic information.

The computer system would hold details of every phone call and email sent in the UK, The Times newspaper reported.

The information would be passed to the Government by internet service providers and telephone companies.

The plans are at a very early stage, but are being considered for inclusion in the draft Communications Bill to be published later this year, the Home Office confirmed.

Ministers are yet to see the plans, which have been drawn up by Home Office officials.

They are likely to provoke outrage from data protection and civil liberty campaigners and raise objections to the rise of a “Big Brother” state.

A Home Office spokesman said retaining communications information was essential for protecting national security.

He also emphasised powers to hold information were subject to strict safeguards.

He said: “Communications data – the who, how, when and where of a communication but not the what (content) of the communication – is a crucial tool for protecting national security, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the public.”

The Government has been embarrassed by a string of data protection failures in recent months including the loss of a CD carrying the personal details of every child benefit claimant.

Indian prostitutes receive life insurance

Last updated: 3:25 PM BST 01/05/2008

Around 250 sex workers in India’s eastern city of Kolkata have, for the first time received life insurance cover from a State-owned corporation.

They believe this to be a step forward in their long standing crusade aimed at legalising their profession to help bring them into the mainstream and fight poverty and discrimination.

“The policy from the Life Insurance Corporation of India may not change much in our life, but this small step is a giant leap forward in our struggle for legal recognition of sex work,” Bharati Dey of the Indomitable Women’s Coordination Committee in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, said.

The committee that campaigns for safe sex and to make prostitution legal has 65,000 sex workers as members in eastern Bengal province of which Kolkata is the capital.

“We live in no-man’s land and this is the first time that a government company has recognised us as professionals”, declared 45-year old Dey from the city’s Sonagachi red light district, one of Asia’s largest.

Although illegal, prostitution is a thriving business across India with an estimated two million female sex workers, the majority forced into it by poverty.

Mamata Nandy, 35, a sex worker and a proud policy holder, said recognition by a company like the Life Insurance Corporation would also strengthen the fight against AIDS which in India is transmitted primarily through prostitutes.

According to UNAIDS, India has some 5.7 million people infected with the AIDS virus HIV, the highest such number compared with any place else.

The insurance policies, which are now expected to include to sex workers outside Kolkata, are not the only advance for women in the world’s oldest profession.

In the western port city of Mumbai, a bank run by sex workers was established some years ago to help free them from exploitative brothel owners who maltreated them and kept them in wretched conditions.

Started by a handful of sex workers in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red light district, it now has hundreds of clients.

Story from Telegraph News: