Malawi fishermen queue for sex on Lake Chilwa

Despite increased awareness on HIV and AIDS in Malawi, some fishermen on Lake Chilwa are queuing for sex with one woman in exchange of fifteen dozens of fish if it is unprotected sex.

This revelation was made by fishermen, who were trained by Youth-Net Counselling Organisation (YONECO) as peer educators during a monitoring visit the organization made to Mposa in Machinga district.

The reports indicate that a total of 25 fishermen would line up to have sex with one woman in exchange of 15 dozens of fish if it is unprotected sex or 3 dozen if a condom is used.

The unfortunate part of it is that more than 20 fishermen would not use condoms and opt to pay 15 dozens of fish.

One of the peer educators who were trained by Yoneco sharing her experience

“In my case, I have slept with more than 20 fishermen in exchange of fish. Many women from other districts also engage in the same behaviour because they cannot afford to buy fish at an affordable price,” confirmed one of the business ladies, Mercy Malingano

Mercy revealed some business people have taken advantage of the trend and have constructed sharks on top of shrubs inside the lake where rest houses have been opened.

“A lot is happening on these sharks, women are offering their bodies for fish. I can even say it here that most fishermen scramble to sleep with a single woman in exchange of fish,” she said.

Moses Pillane, one of the fishermen revealed that most of his counterparts engage in such behaviour because they spend most of their time away from their wives.

“We use a pool of boats and go into fishing areas where we spend between one and three months away from our wives and families. We also carry firewood, flour, water and many other necessary items on our way. While away fishing, many women visit us to buy fish with some even offering their bodies in exchange of fish.

“Most women prefer unprotected sex in order to be given more fish (15 dozens). This trend has been going on for so long but thanks to Yoneco, who have intensified in sensitising us on the dangers of this behaviour,” revealed Pillane.

Alarm

Mean while some concerned fishermen have raised an alarm on the possible increased HIV prevalence rate if the situation is not given the immediate attention it deserves.

In a related development, YONECO with funding from National AIDS Commission (NAC) has embarked on a campaign in which fishermen and sex workers are trained on the dangers of HIV, a project which has also targeted residents of lake Chirwa and surrounding areas.

According to the Media, Networking and Advocacy Officer for YONECO, Charles Banda the organisation trained fishermen and commercial sex workers’ in the area as peer educators to conduct awareness on the dangers of engaging in unprotected sex.

“In recent monitoring visit to the area, the fishermen shared some of the project success that includes reduction of beer drinking points around the lake which have been reduced to 10 from 26,” explained Banda adding that, “the number of women and children who access some of the islands on the lake has also been reduced due to monitoring by trained fishermen,” said Banda.

HIV and Aids programme

Apart from training fishermen and commercial sex workers in the area to act as peer educators, YONECO is also implementing a project that is reaching out to groups comprised of fishermen, bicycle tax operators, sex workers and teen mothers.

The project is being implemented in Zomba, Machinga and Balaka districts with funding from National AIDS Commission.

Since the inception of the project, Yoneco has distributed over 12,080 condoms to the targeted groups as one way of dealing with HIV and AIDS

However Banda said the demand on the ground is beyond the supply of the condom as fishermen who spend over 3 weeks on the lake demands more than 4 condoms the organization gives per individual.

“Married women who cannot afford family planning methods at the local clinic (CHAM Hospital) also patronize YONECO community centre to receive condoms. Due to scarcity of condoms at the district hospital which is the main source for YONECO, close to 300 cases of Sexual Transmitted Diseases have been reported to the centre. Out of these 4 were of minors aged 14. And over 720 women are in great need of contraceptives,” said Banda

During one of the monitoring visit, it was reported that the population of people living on a number of islands on Lake Chilwa and manmade island is more than the entire population of T/A Mposa.

“Based on population the fishermen who were trained as peer educators by YONECO are demanding over 500,000 condoms for the distribution on the lake,” he said.

During a Kalondolondo Programme Workshop under the theme: ‘Report on the Assessment of Antiretroviral and HIV Testing Services in Machinga”, which was organized YONECO in conjunction with Plan Malawi, Action Aid and CONGOMA at Hippo Lodge, a revelation was made that there is increasing incidence of HIV/AIDS among fishermen on Malawi’s Lake Chilwa due to fishermen and business women exchanging sex for fish.

The report went further to states that the development is also causing marriage break-ups around the villages close to the lake.

“The problem is not only happening around Lake Chilwa. In the lake shore areas of Lake Malawi, Lake Malombe and Lake Chiuta many fishermen are involved in giving free fish to women in exchange for sex,” reads part of the report.

Fishermen at Lake Chilwa doing their business

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