By: Jayne Hamilton Chapomba
In a research conducted in 2015, it was estimated that Malawi has over 20,000 prostitutes or sex workers as they prefer to be called. Even though there is a boom in this industry, prostitution remains illegal in the country.
Recently in some parts of Malawi there have been high registered cases of child prostitution involving both girls and boys under the age of 18
WHAT DRIVES THESE YOUNGSTERS INTO PROSTITUTION?
While there is no doubt that money is the primary reason for boys and girls becoming prostitutes, it is very surprising that sexual motivation also ranks so high.
There has been a rise in sex trade in Karonga where women have been using boys as young as 16 for sexual pleasure. Most of these boys are wooed into the hot business as they call it, because they say that is their way of getting easy money by satisfying the women and getting some cash after that rather that selling chips in the market. Surprisingly some of them offer their bodies to women in the name of getting free sex and satisfying themselves.
Isn’t that sad?
In other cases, young girls as young as 16 have also been joining this industry. Many of these young girls who come from average families have flocked into the industry through sex trafficking, bad parenting as well as peer pressure.
In my research conducted at a place called STERIO in the city of Blantyre where you find many of these girls on the road, some of the girls say they go there to escape hostile stepparents.
I met a girl aged 16 who narrated her story that she is there trying to fend for herself and little ones including grandparents who are so old. She told me that she and her siblings have been staying with grandparents after their parents passed away and there were not any other capable relatives to take care of the. This also forced her to drop out of school and sort prostitution as a refuge.
Another girl aged 18 said she just loves the sex. Asking her why she would want to be doing this malpractice instead of school, she said she used to be sexually abused by the stepfather as a child in the watch of her mom. So, she felt she has no dignity left to preserve. (Such a bad case).
And Majority of them are there because they want money for clothes, Brazilian wigs and the likes just for them to suit with their peers. Some were even brought to the city in the name of seeking house help jobs but ended up in this industry because their pimps threaten their lives.
Are authorities aware of such cases?
Many of these cases, since prostitution is illegal in Malawi, go unheard of when they are reported to the authorities according to the girls who experience great abuse.
HOW CAN WE END CHILD PROSTITUTION?
If we are to stand a chance at ending child prostitution as a nation, we must deepen our civic education on prostitution starting from primary school as well as adult school (sukulu za kwacha) for many parents are also illiterate as per such issues.
These kids deserve to know that prostitution is not a scapegoat in cases where they are bullied by stepparents, abused sexually in childhood and even pressure to suit their peers.
A high school dropout rate has been registered in areas were sex trade is rampant and this is very sad.