Zimbabwe Sex Workers Alliance (ZIMSWA) recently launched the strategy to decriminalise sex work in Zimbabwe.This launch was held together with other sex worker-led organisations to consolidate support towards shifting of policies to decriminalise sex work.
Sex workers involved in the launch said they would lobby sex workers and key allies throughout the country to advocate for their campaign.
They added that they want sex work to be decriminalised because the operating environment is not friendly and violates their rights.
Gregory Brighton Kata, National Coordinator said that he hoped to see the strategy implemented to enable sex workers in Zimbabwe enjoy their human rights.
Leeroy Mkhokheli Gumpo,the Coordinator of Pow Wow while moderating the launch of the stategy said that criminalization of sex work is viewed as one of the most significant barriers towards ending HIV among sex workers in Zimbabwe.
The strategy quotes, ‘Criminalisation of sex work is a human rights issue as it violates the human right to personal autonomy and privacy. Criminalizing adult voluntary and consensual sex is incompatible with human rights.
Criminalization makes sex workers more vulnerable to violence including, rape, assault, and murder, by attackers who see sex workers as easy targets because they are stigmatized and are unlikely to seek help. Criminalization may also force sex workers to work in unsafe locations to avoid the police and it undermines sex workers ability to seek justice for crimes and access services. UNAIDS, public health experts, sex worker organizations, and other human rights organizations have found out that criminalization of sex work has an effect on sex workers right to health. Punitive environments have been shown to limit the availability, access and uptake of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for sex workers and their clients. Evidence shows that HIV prevalence among sex workers is 12 times greater than among the general population. Globally, sex workers have a 45 – 75% chance of experiencing sexual violence of experiencing sexual violence, and a 32 – 55% chance of experiencing sexual violence in a given year7. According to a sex work and violence in Zimbabwe Needs Assessment Report (2015)8, 63% of sex workers face violence annually. Sex work is a thriving industry with an estimated 86 000 sex workers in Zimbabwe. Criminalization of sex work is a contravention of the decent work agenda which states that decent work is employment that respects the fundamental rights of the human person as well as the rights of workers in terms of conditions of work safety and remuneration respect for the physical and mental integrity of the worker in the exercise of his/her employment. In the context of sex work, decent work means sex workers have a right to dignity, voice, equality, inclusion, fair income security at work, social protection for personal development and social integration’.