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Sex business in unlikely places

CONVENIENT?— Sex workers line up along a road

DANDAULA—But it is not easy

Despite attempts by the government to regulate it, sex trade has continued to grow and attract new entrants in Malawi. The world’s oldest profession appears to be getting newer each passing day and, sadly, it is even attracting minors in search of survival as MABVUTO KAMBUWE explores.

Spot checks in Malawi’s major cities, towns and trading centres indicate that the population of sex workers is growing rapidly, with new entrants—some as young as 13 years—joining the profession.

Commercial sex work or prostitution has been in practice throughout ancient and modern cultures and is considered the world’s oldest profession, a description the trade clinched after World War I.

Commercial sex workers cite various reasons to justify their decision to join the industry, with peer pressure and poverty featuring highly. There even are others who simply engage in sex work just for the sake of it.

However, it remains a fact that the profession is growing largely due to social problems, especially in families.

It is evident that some men—both single and married—find comfort in sex workers, a development that contributes significantly to the steady growth of the profession. But the reality is that sex workers make money from their trade.

The majority of sex workers will tell you that they are in that trade it for survival.

All the factors aside, Malawi is experiencing a rise in number of sex workers with young girls even dropping out of school to join the oldest profession.

Although, the country is said to be making good progress in winning the battle against HIV and Aids, its prevalence rate, at 10.6 percent, remains one of the highest in the world and sex work is contributing to this.

Today, there are places designed and designated for other purposes that are turning into venues for sex. In Lilongwe, the trend appears to be rising to frightening levels despite that, by its nature, it is shrouded in secrecy and stealth.

EXPLOITED BY SEX WORKERS—Civo Stadium premises

Located in Area 9 in the capital city, Civo Stadium is one of the country’s biggest sports venues. It hosts various sporting disciplines such as football, basketball, netball, volleyball and athletics.

But put the sports aspect aside! The place is a handy venue for sex workers. They throng it nightly, lining up along the road, attracted by men who drive by searching for pleasure.

You always find seductively dressed ladies at the entrance to the stadium complex. They do that in all manner of weather—even that biting cold that will freeze your uncovered limbs.

And there is something unique about the place that also attracts sex workers.

Although Civo Club House has a bar, it is mostly quiet at night and there is no other business taking place outside the bar. Hence, some people have taken advantage of the quiet ambience, especially at night, to turn the facility into a brothel.

Every now and then, men pick up sex workers at this place.

For short-time clients, these women opt to use the stadium premises inside cars in most cases.

While the majority of the sex workers flood night clubs and bars in search of potential clients, another group endures the cold weather in the streets of Lilongwe.

One of them is Jane, who has been in this profession for several years and shares her experience.

“I do my business at Civo Stadium because I get good customers there. Some clients give us a lot of money. But we also get some clients who need short-time services. So, we make fast cash,” she says.

A Chinsapo-based sex worker, who identified herself as Mary, claims that Civo Stadium premises is one of the good places for sex work.

“It is a place where we are most of the time chased by the police but on a good night, we make a lot of money. We do not pay anything to the guards because sometimes we stand few metres away from the premises,” she claims.

Civil Stadium premises have three houses which were previously used by staff at the place. There are allegations that the houses are sometimes used by sex workers.

Currently, management is under fire from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) which owns the facility, for not being strict on regulations for managing the place.

The top brass is reportedly unhappy with reports that some people, especially guards at the facility are cashing in on illegal business of sex work.

Reports suggest that some sex workers have befriended security guards at the premises who give them the leeway to utilise the facility for their trade.

One of the watchmen who spoke on condition of anonymity admitted that on several occasions, sex workers have asked them for a spot around the premises “to do business”.

“We alwa y s have challenges with the sex workers. Most of the time they ask for shelter to do their business with desperate clients. We chase them away so that they should not use the facility,” the guard said.

Civo Club House Manager, James Kadoda, said he was not competent to comment on the matter about the security of the place.

OPC Director of Administration, Rashid Ntelera, dismissed reports of a booming sex trade at the facility as mere speculation.

“I don’t know anything about the women who line up at the entrance at Civo. But on the issue of the houses, they are under the board of Civo Sporting Club. But I don’t think that can happen in the houses. What we know is that we are in process of maintaining the houses so that they are used for their intended purposes,” Ntelera said.

The use of the place for sex trade could be a tip of the iceberg.

However, police officers sometimes conduct patrols around the facility at night. Central Region Police spokesperson Kingsley Dandaula says the law enforcers conduct patrols in the streets of Lilongwe including Civo Stadium premises.

“Being idle and disorderly is punishable under the laws of Malawi. We normally arrest women who line up the streets at night. But it is not easy since they stay in their hiding places when they see the police,” Dandaula added.

All in all, Malawi is experiencing an increase in the number of commercial sex workers and they are rushing to some very unconventional places.

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