Despite the country courts decriminalizing ‘loitering for purposes of prostitution’, sex workers in Harare’s Epworth dormitory town have raised red flags over abuses they face at the hands of police officers who reportedly raid their spots, demanding sex as bribe to continue with their trade.
One of the sex workers in Overspill, Epworth, Anna Mutukura (pseudo name) accused police of making their trade difficult by ambushing and demanding sex as a form of bribe.
“Hupenyu hwaoma and its even hard to charge for our services. Dzimwe nguva unotodzoka ne30 bond husiku hwese and mazuvano haichatenge kana chinhu. On top of that, police comes, demanding sex as bribe,” said Mutukura.
Another sex worker, popularly known as Chihera said police officers were making their trade a nightmare despite it being their source of livelihood.
Chihera denounced the police’s heavy-handedness, saying ladies of the night also deserved to be treated humanely.
“If you do not have money to pay the bribe or you decline police officers’ sexual advances, you are imprisoned without trial,” she said.
Both women said ladies of the night had both deep seated fear and loathing for police officers whom they accused of being overzealous, heavy handed and abusive of them.
In a telephone interview with Zimbabwe Republic Police, Inspector Paul Nyathi said the victims should report their cases to the police.
“We encourage these sex workers to report to the police then we will take it from there,” said Nyathi.
HIV and Aids advocacy groups have often argued that criminalizing sex work will result sex workers becoming more mobile, hard to reach, hampering the efforts to combat the deadly.
They say the criminalizing the profession will make it difficult for sex workers to access medical services.