For the first time sex workers will be able to discuss their work officially, as exhibitors, at Zimbabwe’s annual international trade fair in the country’s second city Bulawayo, which was opened on Friday by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Sipho Khumalo, who provides legal support to the Sexual Rights Centre, told the Bulawayo newspaper, Southern Eye, this week that workers she represented were pleased to be able to exhibit at this year’s fair, for the first time, and would be able to discuss their work with the public.
“It is so great to be here showcasing our work. It has been a struggle, but we are glad that we have finally got the chance to express ourselves for society, and for society to know that sex work is work like any other,” she said.
“We are happy that we got the chance to show the world that we are not parasites, we are working to earn a living for our families.” She said it would give sex workers the opportunity to try to remove negative perceptions about their professional life.
“We have tried to exhibit before but been met with criticism because people do not really appreciate the work we do but we have since engaged other civic society organisations that work with us advocating for sexual rights and we are here,” she said.
She said sex workers would teach people about safe sex and explain that they were not spreading HIV/Aids.
The health ministry reported last year that there were more than 44 000 sex workers in Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa’s administration, which came to power in November, has relaxed some censorship and recently unbanned an award-winning Danish documentary, Democrats, a fascinating and detailed report of the long and difficult process to create Zimbabwe’s latest constitution.