Plying sex as a trade

They brace the windy night to earn a living by exchanging their bodies with banknotes. They wear miniskirts or tight trousers for the sake of attracting men to which they sell sex.
It appears to be a simple and straight-forward trade. People think it just involves the prostitutes selling just sex. However, there are a lot of ‘night politics’ that happen.
Neria who has been operating as a sex worker for six years in different places in the Southern Region says prostitution involves a lot of things, including lying and stealing.
According to Neria, most of the sex workers lie when giving out their names to the male clients. On first encounter she may say she is Zione but when another client asks her about her name she will say she is Shakira.

A teenage ekes a living as a sex worker at on of the shebeens in Salima
A teenage ekes a living as a sex worker at on of the shebeens in Salima

Nelia explains: “Our business is unpredictable. You don’t know how the deal with a particular man will end. Sometimes we run away with the client’s items such as phones, so it is important for us not to reveal our real names.”
Another prostitute, Chrissy says when men buy beer for her, she steals some bottles which she later exchange with cash to the barman.
“This is how I maximise my revenue every night. There are some tough days when there are no clients. So if a man just buys me beer I hide some bottles, including his and sell them to the barman. I have a baby at my room [which needs food]; hence, if I go back without money for food, the baby will die [from hunger],” says Chrisy who has operated in several trading centres including Lunzu, Liwonde and Zalewa.
Executive director of Badilika Foundation, Pastor Forbes Msiska, says most of the prostitutes behave like that because of the power of demon in their hearts.
Msiska whose organisation advocates welfare and rights of prostitutes confirms that some prostitutes do other sinister activities apart from selling sex to male clients.
Msiska explains: “What people should know is that prostitutes are human beings before we call them prostitutes. Some of them are thieves like any other thieve who is not a prostitute. Therefore, when they see opportunity to steal they do so. But we discourage such behaviour because it is bad.”
Msiska said one day when he was at the pub to meet some sex workers to give them counseling, he saw a prostitute running away with a phone in her hand. Then, she hid the phone in the nearby bush.
“The phone was not hers; she stole it from her client, the man,” says Msiska.
Chrissy says sometimes the money they make is not enough to meet their daily needs hence they resort to stealing.
“Some men are fond of negotiating prices. For example, if I say short time sex is going at K2 500, you will see that the client wants to pay K1 500 and sometimes K1 000. We accept but this gives us powers to steal from them if they are not careful with their items such as phones or cash,” says Chrissy.
She adds that most sex workers become trustworthy when the client does not negotiate the price.

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