Mmegi Online :: Pregnant women among sex workers
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Last Updated
Friday 22 June 2018, 06:00 am.
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Pregnant women among sex workers

SELEBI-PHIKWE: Pregnant women are among active commercial sex workers, most of whom hold respectable jobs by day here, Mmegi has learnt.
By Staff Writer Sat 23 Jun 2018, 13:41 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Pregnant women among sex workers








The women - some of whom are blood cousins - say they were driven into the double life by financial problems and count high-ranking policemen and company executives among their regular clients.

Speaking at a workshop here last Thursday, the Senior Programme Officer of an outreach organisation for sex workers described the situation as a cause for concern because an exercise that unearthed these astonishing facts did not include schools where there are children as young as 12 who are engaged in commercial sex work. "In our district, sex workers range from junior secondary school students to married and formally employed women as well as members of different religions," the officer said.    

The workshop revealed that the Sex Workers Emancipation Programme had reached 2751 commercial sex workers in six months in Selebi-Phikwe alone. The programme is run by Silence Kills Support Group that said the figure was made up of 1250 males and 1501 females above the age of 18, all of them Batswana. While some of these commercial sex workers ply their trade on the street at night, others operate from illegal brothels. "We have identified 64 hotspots through our peer educators," said Boitumelo Kopano, the Senior Programme Officer of Silence Kills. "Some of the commercial sex workers are relatives from the same households."  Kopano said they were shocked to find pregnant women among active commercial sex workers. Women holding reputable positions were also in the business of offering sex for money, mainly to law enforcement officials and high-ranking officials from other institutions.

Kopano said through their interactions with commercial sex workers, they discovered that the women were forced by financial constraints to embark on the seedy enterprise. "Closure of the textile industry, which was the predominant employer of lowly qualified females in the (Selebi-Phikwe) district, has contributed to

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the increase in commercial sex work," she added.

The problem was that HIV would continue to spread for as long as there was commercial sex work and some women failed to prioritize between health and money, Kopano noted, adding that sex workers often levied a risk fee for unprotected sex.

In discussions during the workshop, it became clear that the police are legally powerless to charge sex workers for the prostitution and that they can only charge them with loitering.

Participants said the programme should include children engaged in the sex trade so that different departments may assist accordingly. Some felt that commercial sex work would be safer if the trade was legalised.

However, the thrust of Silence Kills is to prevent entry into commercial sex work and to facilitate exit from the trade while combating HIV/AIDS transmission among those in the trade and their clients. Kopano said the objective was to increase access to quality integrated HIV services by sex workers and their clients and capacity building by 2013. 

"We are also working towards exploring talents as a potential alternative means of income generation for the sex workers to exit the trade," she said. "We hope our project will increase knowledge of the dangers of the trade and its linkages to HIV/AIDS, improve HIV prevention practices and decrease subscription to commercial sex work."

Emphasising the need to empower the sex workers economically, Kopano noted that exiting the trade was a process that could not be achieved overnight.    The programme, which started in February 2010, has been ongoing for 14 months and is expected to end in February 2013. It is under the Research Triangle Institute and seeks to reduce HIV infection and transmission among female sex workers and their clients.

The workshop noted low condom supply as a serious challenge.

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