THE Avenues area has over the years been a prime choice of residence for many young professionals because of its proximity to the central business district.
Its apartment blocks — including bedsitters, family apartments, garden flats and luxury penthouses — have been a strong attraction to those able to pay the rentals.
In recent years, however, the increasing number of guest houses, lodges and night clubs has also attracted sex workers, earning the neighbourhood the seedy reputation for being a “red light district” — particularly along Josiah Chinamano and Fife avenues as well as Sixth Street.
The developments have courted the ire of residents, especially those raising families, as they have become unwilling witnesses of the sex workers’ daring escapades — including their turf wars — as they battle for the few customers who leisurely drive around the area in search of a catch.
Following last Saturday’s publication of the story on how sex workers in the Avenues are now working on a 24-hour shift, some concerned residents expressed worry over the turn of events.
One resident who identified herself as Janet — a mother of two school-going children — said living with her family in the Avenues was fast becoming difficult due to the sex workers’ modus operandi.
Despite the convenience of the area being close to her city centre office and Prince Edward School where her children are students, the rise in the number of sex workers lining up the streets had left her with no choice, but to consider moving to another area.
“Every day my children are exposed to scantily-dressed women in broad daylight and I think it is not psychologically okay for them to witness such things,” she said.
But even more disturbing to her was that almost every morning, she woke up to find used condoms strewn by the perimeter wall of the flat where her family stays.
“Since some of the sex workers service their clients in cars, just outside our gates, we sometimes find used condoms strewn by the roadside, and we have to clean up before our children wake up,” she said.
Following the landmark Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruling in May last year, which outlawed the arrest of women suspected of loitering for purposes of prostitution, sex workers no longer have to run their errands under the cover of darkness.
As a result, the numbers of sex workers on the streets have now swelled as they freely roam the streets from midmorning until late.
There has been an influx of women, including girls barely out of their teens, who openly flaunt their services.
Another resident of the Avenues, who declined to be named, said the suburb was fast-becoming a hub of crime as sex workers operated in cahoots with “gangs of men” who offered them protection.
“My problem with their presence day and night is that this lowers the tone of the area and contributes to a negative impact on property value,” he said.
“Who wants to live in an area where sex workers are all over the place?”
He added that the proliferation of sex workers contributed to the high levels of litter in a neighbourhood traditionally known for its cleanliness, quiet and serene atmosphere.
“Because these people spend a lot of time in the streets, they buy lunch and dispose of the containers in the street. Some have no ablution facilities and use trees and perimeter walls as toilets, which is not healthy for all of us,” he said.
Other residents complained about noise associated with the fights that the sex workers often engage in.
“They (sex workers) are very loud and they often shout at each other, or fight over issues to do with their clients,” another resident said.
While some sex workers travel from other parts of Harare to solicit for clients in the Avenues, others rent apartments in the area, according to Venna, who shares a flat with some of the “thigh vendors”.
“The biggest problem is the noise, and some of the clients who are often violent. It scares me a lot,” she said.
Most of the female residents interviewed said they were deeply worried by snide remarks and catcalls they receive as they go home from work since some people mistake them for sex workers.
Those with teenage daughters expressed worry that their children were exposed to the operations of the sex workers on a daily basis, with teenage boys highly tempted to experiment due to the exposure.
NewsDay Weekender also established many “sexcapades” happened in full viewer of the residents’ children.
“Children are inquisitive by nature. These lodges were licensed to be guest houses, but children peep in and know what is happening inside. Condoms are thrown around. They should, at least, find a way of disposing of them,” one concerned mother, Thandiwe Ncube, said.
Two years ago, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, with assistance from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the police and Harare Municipality, embarked on an operation which saw several unregistered lodges shut down.