Disabilty and commercial sex work—a sad story

THE vagaries of life have forced Raramai (not her real name) from Murehwa in Mashonaland East to turn to prostitution for survival. Raramai, who suffers from both speech and hearing impairment, has decided to use the only asset she has ­— her striking beauty — to eke a living as the curse of being an orphan left her with no one to fend for her.   

Report by Jairos Saunyama Own Correspondent

Asked in sign language, the 21-year-old said she was an orphan and a school dropout who had no other means of earning a living. The sad irony is that she sees sex work as salvation.

“Being a commercial sex worker has proved worthy to me as I can put food on my table,” she said.

“I am renting my own apartment so I am not troubling anyone.

On a busy night, Raramai said she pocketed an average of $30.She said weekends were brisk business days.

“It’s not that easy though,” she said. “Some clients are very abusive and because I am not able to speak, they can’t hear my complaints.

“Most of them don’t know sign language and they just want to satisfy themselves.”

Price negotiations are often problematic and the sex peddler often has to write them down for easy communication.

“The other problem is when negotiating prices for my service. I usually have misunderstandings with clients and I have to write down to make it easier. At first some clients would take advantage by paying little after sex, but now I demand payment upfront,” she said.

Regular clients, however, are familiar with the prices. She added that she often took the lead as a lot of men often felt uncomfortable, perhaps out of pity, due to her handicap.

However, according to some male patrons who frequent the night clubs, Raramai’s disabilities presented a challenge for her.

A male patron who identified himself as Revai said: “She has been in this area for a while, but a number of men are reluctant to take her offers because of communication problems.

“She only understands sign language and very few here know about it.”

Another patron concurred that the speech impediment often hindered her ability to make more money.

Most of her customers, however, are empathetic.

She is one of the many young women who have turned to commercial sex work at this club, which is strategically located along a highway that connects Harare, Murehwa, Mutoko and Nyamapanda. Long-distance haulage truck drivers often take overnight respite in Murewa.

According to Raramai, most sex workers charge $10 per night, while short-time prices range from as little as $1 to $3. Some clients were fascinated by the novel idea of bedding a disabled sex worker.

“I wanted to feel how it is to bed a deaf and dumb sex worker, but I realised nothing different except communication problems. At first I felt pity, but the lady led the proceedings,” he said.

Prostitution in the area, according to residents, has ripped through the community’s moral fabric.

Hunger and unemployment, which is widespread in the community, is believed to be a significant feeder of the problem.

Many businesses at Murehwa centre have long closed due to viability problems, leaving nightclubs and bars to command the biggest chunk of the clientele.

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