Prostitution crackdown 'discriminatory'

HARARE - The  clampdown on prostitution in Harare’s red-light districts is discriminative and unconstitutional, legal experts have said.

Code-named “Operation Zvanyanya”, the onslaught spearheaded by female cops has targeted night clubs and lairs and is seeking to flush out prostitutes from the Avenues.

Jessie Majome, deputy minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development condemned the operation.

“It is just something else and worse still the new Constitution has a provision for the protection of a person’s privacy.

“What sort of message are these female officers trying to preach by extending their campaign into people’s residences?” Majome said.

“How do they know a person sitting in a club or bar is a prostitute and besides, does it mean every woman found in such places is prostituting? It is extremely discriminative to women and perpetuates them as sex objects.”

Majome slammed the use of female police officers in carrying out the raid.

“I am particularly depressed by women who are being used by patriarchy to violate their own,” she said.

“I can’t help but look at their status in the police force but it becomes handy for them to carry out an operation of this nature.

“I would be very happy if police were arresting the men who are buying the sex. They are becoming moral police yet they have the highest rates of corruption and crime is going unpunished.

“I feel if the status of the women could be improved — they would be less engaging in prostitution. I don’t know, but are the women really choosing such profession and doing it out of their choice? I think it is more a question of economic instability which has not been addressed.”

Inspector Tadius Chibanda, the Harare police spokesperson, told the Daily News that the ongoing operation was meant to ease loitering but professed ignorance that officers were entering nightclubs and picking up dancers on stage.

Operation Zvanyanya is meant to deal with the problem of loitering in the streets of Harare,” said Chibanda.

“I am not aware that dancers are being arrested from the stage and I am still to receive a report of that nature.”

An emergency meeting between the police and nightclub owners and bar managers took place on Tuesday.

A club manager who attended the meeting said while dancers would be spared the arrests, they were forewarned that those who did not dress properly would be picked up.

“The police said the operation will continue until the streets were clean of prostitutes,” said a club manager who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The dancers will be spared but they have to dress properly — whatever that means.”

Marufu Mandevere of Kadzere, Hungwe and Mandevere law firm said there was stigmatisation in the enforcement of the law against loitering.

“There is a provision for loitering for purposes of prostitution but it is discriminative and unconstitutional on the part of women because they are the only ones who face arrest,” Mandevere said.

“Is it unlawful for a woman to be in a bar? Does it mean that if I have my wife or friend in a bar they are going to be arrested? Besides, the law defines a public and private place and them going into places of residence is clearly invasion of one’s privacy.”

Virginia Muwanigwa, a communications, gender and development expert, said both male and female parties must be brought to book to eradicate the trade.

“The police must recognise that prostitution thrives not only because of women but, the buyers-who are men,” she said. “If they really want to end prostitution, they should arrest the buyer.”

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