SEX work the world over, is tagged the oldest profession in the history of mankind, having manifested itself in the most ancient and primitive societies, the trade was popular in ancient Egypt and Greece, where it was practiced at various socioeconomic levels.
By Michael Gwarisa
However, legalising the profession has been a contentious issue in Zimbabwe and most parts of the world including those which had once legalised the trade for example Thailand. In 2017, Thailand tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul announced that she wants the country’s sex industry “gone.”
Criminalising sex work has relegated the profession to some societal peripheries and in the process exposing sex practitioners to various health hazards which include rape, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV, violence and chief among them all “Unorthodox Abortion Means.”
Since abortion is illegal in Zimbabwe, Sex workers due to the fact that they engage in sexual relations almost on a daily basis, makes them vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies which according to the ladies of the trade, is a very huge inconvenience and life threatening.
“We abort regularly, it is actually normal in the profession,” said Chihera a sex worker during the just ended National Sex Workers (SWs) Conference which was hosted by the Zimbabwe Aids Network (ZAN) in Gweru.
“I use this certain kind of hedge (Euphorbia tirucalli) which we usually use to stick up torn bank notes. You just insert inside your privates with the help of a semi thin stick then push the hedge towards the cervix. Once it reaches there, the cervix opens up and the baby comes out.”
Another sex worker from Matebeland, Bathabile Nyathi said some women use the Crotchet Hook (Kroshi) to burst the amniotic sack covering the fetus and the pregnancy is gone. The Crotchet is tied fast onto a stick so that it increases its length.
However, in most cases, the Crotchet gets stuck inside the womb and because abortion is illegal, the victims suffer severe infection which at times leads to death since they cannot disclose the condition to health centres for fear of being arrested.
“At times we have to carry our sisters with the Crotchet dangling from their privates to the hospital. Sometimes some choose not to disclose that something is stuck inside them, as a result, they die in the process due to infection.”
Amanda Musara (Not Real Name), a sex worker from Gweru said she uses birth control pills to get rid of her numerous pregnancies.
“I use the brown pills, those ones gets the job done. I just take four at one go and i get a menstrual flow. In other instances, we get the drugs used for inducing pregnancies to get rid of pregnancies.
“If tacking them orally fails, you can insert inside your privates, they terminate the pregnancies faster than expected. Even labour inducing drugs also work”
Some sex workers at the conference said they used roots, detergents, and overdose medications to terminate pregnancies.
Abortion among young women and girls are now the main causes of maternal mortality accounting for 20 percent of the deaths. On average, Zimbabwe records between 500 000 and 700 000 pregnancies per year and in 2016, 514 died while giving birth.
Katswe Sisterhood programs officer, Nancy Chabuda told a Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) workshop in the capital that illegal and dangerous abortions were rife amongst sex workers.
“Just because of the nature of their work, it is difficult to get health services. Sex workers need access to Prep and Pep, they also need access to contraceptives, HIV screening and treatment. They also need post abortions care serv9ces and safe abortion services.
“You find that sex work is still criminalised in Zimbabwe hence this causes a challenge to them. The attitude from nurses is also something else,” said Chabuda.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council provincial marketing and communication officer, Karen Shiri warned the sex workers against using dangerous abortion methods which says were not only harmful to health but also ineffective means of contraception.
“The issue of taking more than four control pills at one go, or putting labour inducing drugs on one’s privates. These are just stories and falsehoods women share amongst themselves as they are ineffective methods and could result in unwanted pregnancies.
“There are various safe methods of contraception that we recommend which include the pill, condoms, jadelle, no plant among others,” she said.