Mmegi Online :: The dangers of sex-work
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Last Updated
Monday 24 September 2018, 12:02 pm.
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The dangers of sex-work

At the end of the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, health practitioners, religious leaders, traditional leaders, and volunteers converged at Maun Lodge to discuss ways to curb this social ill. As Staff Writer BAME PIET learnt, sex-workers are most exposed to gender-based violence and HIV and AIDS
By Bame Piet Fri 12 Dec 2014, 13:37 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The dangers of sex-work








It happened one May night this year, when an enraged truck driver warned the young woman that he would run her over truck if she did not do as he wished.

Instead of intervening, other sex workers stood by and dismissed his threats as just that. He forced her into the truck, switched on the engine and drove off at high speed. Along the way, he violently pushed her out of the moving vehicle.

A crime that could have easily claimed her life left her with a broken leg, arm, and a serious head injury. A passer-by picked the young woman up and rushed her to hospital. Her injuries were so bad that she was transferred to a hospital in South Africa. Initially, the doctors diagnosed the injuries so severe that they thought of amputation. They did not, but she remains hospitalised to this day.

When the case was reported to the police, it was recorded of a person jumping from a moving truck and sustaining head injury and a broken leg.

The truck driver was never arrested.

“I never saw her again. Her sin was to refuse to go into a permanent relationship with her client, the truck driver,” said a police officer, speaking on the plight of many sex-workers, who, because of the illegal nature of their trade, turn to be double victimised when they fall prey to their clients.

The officer, who cannot be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media, has participated in many raids to arrest sex workers.

According to the officer, during the raids, the police and other law enforcement officers pick-up the sex workers, keep them while on their patrols until early in the morning when they are taken to the police station to be charged with idling and disorderly conduct.

The incident the officer related took place at Kazungula Bridge where sex workers trade their craft in trucks waiting to cross to the other side of the southern Africa countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia. He told the meeting that he has worked with 1,500 female sex workers since 2002.

He said they have assisted other stakeholders, including Non-Governmental Organisations to find alternative sources of employment for sex workers, but the majority of them (sex workers) are not interested. When given other options of survival, many argue that their wish is to be guaranteed security to do their work and are not interested in quitting, said the officer.

The Maun meeting heard that the majority of sex workers are exposed to HIV because of the nature of their trade, and some are forced to engage in unsafe sex for a higher fee.

The seminar, organised by New Directions, PEPFAR, USAID was attended by doctors, researchers, Faith-based organisations, and volunteers who shared their views

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on how to address the loopholes that have resulted in the 40 new HIV infections/day in Botswana.  The number reflects that there are 15,000 new infections and the most affected are the youth in their 20s.

It was found that there is a link between gender-based violence and the spread of HIV.  Researcher at USAID, Irene Ramatala,  said that since 2003, the Botswana police recorded on average, 1,500 cases of rape, five incest, 60 ‘passion killings’ annually.

“Women in Botswana who experience gender-based violence are more likely to be infected with HIV than women in non-violent relationships, 23 percent of pregnant women experienced violence during pregnancy,” she said.

An HIV prevention officer at USAID/PEPFAR, Maina Kiranga, noted the importance of including sex workers, men who have sex with other men and transgender people in HIV prevention and treatment.  He said that these were some of the people who were left out when the government came up with a strategy to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, and therefore it was time to revisit them to address the loopholes.

The speakers urged religious organisations to speak to their congregations on health issues, including sexual reproduction, being faithful, and spread of HIV and AIDS.

Other topics that were discussed were the effectiveness of interventions that have been put in place, leading to new infections dropping 71 percent since 2001; Mother-to-Child-Transmissions having gone down from 40 to two percent; and more men showing interest in circumcision.

“What these figures tell us is that Botswana and the U.S have begun to change the course of the epidemic here. We must continue to invest in evidence-based high impact interventions – and advocate for effective health policies if we are to realise the goal of zero new infections in Botswana,” said acting US Ambassador to Botswana, Michael Murphy.

Murphy said the US government has pledged approximately P50 million in funding to support Botswana’s recent decision to adopt and implement Option B+.

“For those unfamiliar with Option B+, this is a program that provides lifelong treatment to HIV positive pregnant women regardless of their CD4 count. Lifelong treatment helps prevent infant infections, it saves mothers’ lives, reduces numbers of orphans, and it is cost effective,” he said.

Participants visited Women Against Rape (WAR) offices and shelter just on the outskirts of Maun. The place, where survivors of gender-based violence are accommodated for their own safety before the intervention of the law, has tight security. The shelter accommodates up to 10 people at a time and among the basic facilities, is a study room for children. It is also connected to the police emergency line, in case perpetrators trace the survivor to the secret location.

According to the centre social worker, most perpetrators of gender-based violence are unemployed or those engaged in low-income, temporary work.

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