By Garikai Mafirakureva
THREE parliamentary thematic committees on Tuesday descended on Chiredzi on a fact-finding mission on child prostitution as well as sexual reproductive health and rights.
The committees that came as a team comprised the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health, Ruth Labode, Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs chairperson Misheck Mataranyika, acting chairperson on Women Affairs Portfolio Committee, Brian Dube, and Bulawayo legislator Jasmine
Several organisations also attended the meetings convened by the committees, including sex workers, police from the Victim Friendly Unit and several civic organisations.
This was after a local resident, Marko Shoko, petitioned Parliament about the upsurge in child prostitution in Chiredzi and surrounding areas.
He wanted Parliament to investigate and ensure protection of the rights of children as enshrined in the national Constitution and international human rights instruments.
Commercial sex workers told the legislators that they ventured into prostitution to make a living.
“Some of us saw our mothers making easy money by selling their bodies, so we thought the business was lucrative. I heard others were kicked out by their mothers who were into prostitution because they had grown up, and the mothers felt they were disturbing their boyfriends,” Paidamoyo Manika said.
Rosemary Chiguvi added that other sex workers joined the profession following the deaths of both parents, while some parents left for South Africa in search of greener pastures, leaving behind child-headed families.
There were unrecorded cases of localised human trafficking where older commercial sex workers were going around recruiting girls as young as 11 from areas like Mkwasine Estates, promising them jobs, but ended up pimping them to older businessmen, politicians and other prominent people.
“Although we don’t know the number of pregnancies terminated and the number of those who died in the process, we admit that we use unorthodox abortion methods like shoving fresh chillies up our private parts or using hooked wires, but nurses from Chiredzi General Hospital and doctors from private institutions have carried out most of the abortions in this town,” Juliet Gadzanai said.
Chiredzi has been a hub for prostitution since the 1960s, with the town even honouring the sexual exploits of pioneers of prostitution in the town by naming streets after them.
Prominent among these streets in Tshovani township that were named after sex workers Molly, Hilda, Alice Dhliwayo, and Elizabeth Mailosi.
Chiredzi Town Council chairperson Gibson Hwende and several councillors admitted that the streets were named after commercial sex workers, but said the naming was done during the colonial era.