Sex workers' tough job to survive

HARARE - Being a sex worker is not a stroll in the park — it is very tough.

For one to put food on the table and pay the bills, it’s not just about the coitus, various tricks are employed in order to get the elusive dollar.

For Priscilla Jack (not real name), it means using even criminal means like extortion to extract extra money from her unsuspecting clients.

Jack narrated to the Daily News on Sunday how she became a commercial sex worker as a way of revenging her ex-husband’s deeds.

“I started this trade in 2003 after having been in a very abusive relationship. My husband was into getting sex from sex workers.

“He was so disrespectful of our marriage union that he would bring them at home and conduct their business on our matrimonial bed, while I was shafted to the floor. It went on for years and I never complained until I decided to revenge on him.

“Initially, it was not for the money, but after our marriage broke down, I then turned it into my full-time job,” she said.

This is how it started.

Jack said her husband went to South Africa to seek greener pastures, leaving her behind, but when he returned, his health had deteriorated.

They both went for HIV tests.

He tested positive, while she was negative.

However, throughout the duration of their marriage, she was treated of sexually transmitted infections countless times.

She tried to make the discordant relationship work, but when she realised her husband had not changed his lifestyle, she refused to be intimate with him and later opted out.

Jack said the reason why she has stayed HIV negative regardless of being a veteran of the oldest profession in the world is that she insists on protection, regardless of situations.

“I use the female condom religiously and never let a man lead me. I go for regular medical check-ups and HIV tests because I do not want to be caught unaware.

“One thing my clients know is that I do not perform oral sex on them, ever. I need to keep myself safe because I still have children that go to school and need me to take care of them,” she said.

The sex worker said the toughest time for her was when she was arrested and had to spend some weeks in prison.

She said the conditions in the female prison were so bad that when wardens were checking them on days they appeared in court for routine remands, they would be stripped and have their private parts checked in case they were smuggling out letters.

“The wardens would wear a glove in one hand and check all the women using the same glove. In that way, fluids from one woman would be passed to the last person increasing their risks of contracting diseases.

“I would refuse to be checked and the wardens ended up checking me first then everyone else. Women with children were the most at risk of passing on their illnesses to children because of the unsanitary conditions,” she said.

Jack said to survive in the sex industry, she has had to also start extorting from her clients, especially those who bully her.

The sex worker said she has started extorting even police officers who ask for sexual favours instead of doing their duties.

“I started doing this after a police officer asked for a sexual favour from me so that he would do his job. After consultation with a non-governmental organisation that I deal with I simply tell the officer that unless he sends me ‘something’ I will open a case against him at his station. It’s all about survival of the fittest. Sex work does not always work so you need other tricks,” Jack said. 

She said sometimes she even gets her clients’ wives numbers just as a security measure in case they decide not to pay.

“These men have to understand that we do not look for them but they hunt us down. So, if they want to play dirty, we can also do the same. Chakatanga ndechakachenjedza.

“We will not be duped just because people think very low of us. There are commercial sex workers who are in marriages that we see every day in bars, while some even have degrees. The job is still the same,” she said.

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