Malawi sex workers accuse Police, health workers of harrasment

Malawi Police officers and health workers have been mentioned as the worst people in as far as sexual harassment and abuse as well as promotion of stigma and discrimination among commercial sex workers is concerned.

This was revealed during an awareness campaign meeting organized by the sex workers from Mangochi District to sensitize the community and service providers on their rights.

The sex workers, with the assistance of Youth Net and Counseling (YONECO), organized the awareness meeting following a sharp rise in violence against sex workers in the district.

During the meeting, the sex workers openly complained that whenever they lodge complaint with police they are not assisted accordingly and instead they only get insulted by the officers on duty.

Sex workers  performing during the event
Sex workers performing during the event

One sex worker told the gathering that whenever they are arrested for rogue and vagabond, police demand bribes either in cash or sex to buy their freedom.

“In most cases when we offer them sex, they don’t use condoms,” said a sex worker who did not want to be named during the meeting which was held at Makawa Trading Centre in the district.

Another added that just because police know them as sex “traders”, they have now resorted to arresting them at any time of the day even at 9:00 am.

But in his response to the allegation and complaints, Detective Chavula from Nkopola Police Unit informed the gathering that rogue and vagabond was not limited to 10:00 pm as most people believe.

Chavula said even during day time, in line with section 184 of the Penal Code, the Police have legal mandate to arrest any member of the society suspected not to have visible means of subsistence or failing to give their proper account.

He then encouraged the sex workers who were sexually harassed or abused to lodge their complaints through the Police Unit Officer-in-Charge or Mangochi Police.

YONECO Mangochi District Manager Frank Mfune urged the service providers in the area and across the country to respect the rights of commercial sex workers just like any other Malawian.

Section 20 of the Malawi Constitution prohibits any form of discrimination on citizens regardless of their status or way of life.

YONECO, with support from SIMAVI is promoting access to sexual reproductive health services among the youth and sex workers in Mangochi district.

And Media, Networking and Advocacy Officer for YONECO Charles Banda observed that there was need to promote the rights of sex workers if the nation is to reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Banda added that YONECO realized that combating the spread of HIV, groups that are on high risk, such as that of sex workers, must be targeted in the interventions.

According to statistics, the lake shore district is one of the highest districts in the country with high HIV prevalence rate.

Detective Chavula from Nkopola Police Unit
Detective Chavula from Nkopola Police Unit
YONECO Cultural Troupe performing at Makawa Trading Centre
YONECO Cultural Troupe performing at Makawa Trading Centre

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