Bulawayo East MP Tabitha Khumalo (MDC-T) yesterday lambasted fellow legislators who refused to speak out on the rights of sex workers, dismissing them as hypocrites.
Report by Phillip Chidavaenzi
The outspoken MP said her colleagues pretended as if sex workers were non-existent whereas they sought their services frequently.
Speaking at a meeting on gender violence organised by the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) in Harare, Khumalo said such MPs failed to appreciate that sex workers constituted a significant proportion of the electorate.
The MP said the law branded every woman a prostitute and she needed support to fight for its repeal because it was wrong.
“Our problem as Zimbabweans is that we don’t want to speak the truth,” Khumalo said.
“We are in denial when we pretend that sex workers are not there. Some of the beneficiaries are even top chefs.
“Section 8:11 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act allows the police to arrest any woman walking (in the streets) after 7pm.”
“Technically, it means we are all prostitutes.It’s wrong. To repeal the law, I want someone to second. People say because I speak out about prostitutes, so I am one of them.”
The legislator claimed her audacity to speak out on such issues was the reason behind her removal from her post as MDC-T deputy spokesperson.
She said as part of her campaign for women’s rights during the ongoig 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, she was going around leisure spots in Bulawayo distributing condoms.
“I’m going to bars, nightclubs and shebeens to distribute condoms,” Khumalo said.
“Women are being infected (with HIV) when they could have been protected. I don’t care what people say. As long as they are voters, I will stand for them.”
She accused fellow MPs of refusing to support her because they feared losing their constituencies yet sex workers were also voters.
“For them to second me, they fear losing their constituencies,” the MP said.
“But the commercial sex workers are also voters. It is surprising because the same men exchange the sex workers in hotels like undergarments.”
ZWRCN executive director Naomi Chimbetete said there was need to shun violence against women even beyond the 16 days of activism.
“There is need for practical action,” she said.
“But we need support. The 16 days may end next week, but the real issues are for 365 days. We need to be united and establish a way forward.”