#OpenForBusiness: S.ex Workers Parade their Stuff at Trade Fair

Bulawayo - Oftentimes executed in secrecy, the world's oldest 'profession' - composed of about 44 586 practitioners within Zimbabwe - 7 000 of them based in Bulawayo - sex workers have finally come into the open to exhibit at the ongoing Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF). 

And after being barred from such platforms previously, they have finally been granted the opportunity to exhibit at this year. 

Sipho Khumalo, the Sexual Rights Centre legal support officer told the media they were excited with the initial presence at the global platform.

“It is so great to be here showcasing our work. It has been a struggle, but we are glad that we have finally got the chance to express ourselves for society and the society to know that sex work is work like any other,” she told the Southern Eye.

“We are happy that we got the chance to show the world that we are not parasites, we are working to earn a living for our families.”

Previous encounters have been met with stiff resistance.
Prostitutes in Harare CBD

“We have tried to exhibit before, but we have been met with criticism because people do not really appreciate the work we do. They do not realise that we are working to earn a living, but we have since engaged other civic society organisations that work with us advocating for sexual rights and we are here,” she said.

“We are here, we are part of the community and we are not going anywhere. We are trying to teach people that they should accept us as part of them and desist from violating us because we are just like any other member of the society.”

Prostitution in Zimbabwe and related acts, including solicitation, procuring, and keeping a brothel, are illegal but thriving. Zimbabwe's dire economic situation has forced many women into sex work.

“People know little about our profession, so here we teach them that we practise safe sex and we must not be seen as people who are spreading HIV as society views us,” said Khumalo.

Prostitution is addressed in Part III of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act 2004. The police can arrest any woman walking (in the streets) after 7pm. In 2011 Thabita Khumalo, a MDC-T MP, proposed that prostitution in Zimbabwe be decriminalised. 

She stated that decriminalizing prostitution would address three important issues: corruption, HIV/Aids and women’s rights. Khumalo, who has suggested that the word prostitute be changed to pleasure engineer, has continued her campaign despite being demoted in her party in 2012.
In 1995, the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) barred the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) to showcase their operations in Harare, followed by an attack by former president Robert Mugabe.

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