Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Commercial sex workers now want forex

MUTARE – Commercial sex workers have joined the bandwagon of providers of goods and services charging their products in foreign currency as the Zimbabwean Dollar continue to loose value.
The relentless free fall of the Zimbabwean Dollar and galloping hyper inflation has resulted in most businesses and property owners charging in foreign currency for their goods and services.
The government has warned such practices are illegal and anyone caught charging in foreign currency risk arrest and imprisonment. But businesses and property owners remain defiant ignoring the threats.
Commercial sex workers in this eastern border city have also joined in and are now charging in foreign currency for their services. They say this will also hedge them against inflation which is now estimated at 350 000 percent, the world’s highest.
The women plying the world’s oldest profession are charging amounts raging from between US$30 to US$150 – amounts which are excessive if converted into the Zimbabwean currency.
Thirty United States Dollars are equlvalent to just over ZW$ 10 billion and US$150 is just over ZW$ 52 Billion.
Senior civil servants earn a monthly income of ZW $20 Billion. The harsh economic situation in Zimbabwe has driven most women, both young and old, into prostitution as a means of survival.
There is no shortage of business for these women. The eastern border city is awash with the Greenback as it is close to the diamond fields in Marange.
Thousands of people either mines illegally mine the germs or they are go between foreign buyers and the miners.
Thousands of United States Dollars exchange hands everyday in the streets of Mutare. The discovery of diamonds at Chadzwa, Marange, about 40 km south of Mutare changed the face of the city.
Hundreds of previously impoverished people had their status instantly transformed from rags to mega riches as a result of dealing in diamonds.
The majority of them spend their instantly found fortunes in entertainment and in the process fuel prostitution.
“Diamond dealers are very generous,” said a 21-year old commercial sex worker from Sakubva high density suburb, who identified herself only as Sarah. “They can pay an amount in US Dollars as long as he enjoys your service.”
Sarah operates from a lodge nestled between the city’s up market low density suburbs of Murambi and Morningside.
Her colleague scantly dressed and in heavy make-up, weighed in saying, most of her clients were diamond dealers and at times whites who would have visited the city from across the border in Mozambique.
“The Zimbabwean Dollar is depreciating everyday so it is better to do business using the US Dollar,” she said, “I have since stopped charging in Zimbabwe Dollars because the money is worthless the next morning.” The woman, in her early twenties declined to identify herself.
The upsurge in the numbers of commercial sex workers has stoked fears of an increase in the number of HIV-AIDS cases in a country already rated as one of the most affected in the world.
One in every five adults in Zimbabwe is infected by HIV or is already suffering from AIDS related ailments.
Prostitution is illegal in Zimbabwe but authorities appear to be losing the war against the oldest profession that has attracted hundreds of thousands of young women.

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