The Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Lesego Motsumi has said that Government believes and recognizes the importance of creating a means of livelihood for all citizens, as well as the need for a decent life for everyone including people involved in commercial sex.
“And I must state for the record that such means of livelihood cannot by any chance include engaging in sex for commercial gain,” posited Motsumi.
Motsumi said, “That is because we believe there must be provision for decent work for a living, not sex as a means for survival, since Government shares the view that sex is a very sensitive issue.”
She pointed out that, although Government appreciated the predicament of those who found themselves involved in the trade, she could only encourage those involved in commercial sex to consider abandoning their old ways to prevent the long term implications of their enterprise on their own dignity and their children’s esteem.
This followed a one-day workshop conducted by Gender Links-Botswana (GLB), which brought together close to 100 people most of them admitted to being or that they were once involved in commercial sex, at Oasis Motel on the 26th November 2009.
Keabonye Ntsabane, Coordinator of GLB said it was intended through the workshop to speak out about the experiences of sex workers and to┬áavail them an opportunity to hear about the 16 days of campaign against Gender-based violence, which very eloquently done by an official from the Department of Women Affairs, which led the┬áCampaign.
┬á“Central to our objectives was the need to bring this people forward┬áfrom isolation, because only then can we succeed in any initiative at engaging them and understanding their situation better,” said Ntsabane.
┬áGiven a chance to share their experiences, most of the ladies, ranging from 16 years to 45 in age, they expressed concern that police officers┬ámade a mockery of their predicament when they presented their complaints at the police stations.┬á
“This has created a situation where our clients, some of them people of high social standing, take advantage and refuse to pay us despite agreement to that effect,┬áknowing we can’t tell the police the truth since the law prohibits sex for commercial gain,” said one woman who refused to be named.
At some point during the workshop the facilitators had to interject and advised the sex workers┬áto desist from turning the occasion into a Botswana versus Zimbabwean dialogue over competitive pricing. That was after local sex workers complained that Zimbabweans were taking many clients because they were not afraid of the risk of being seen by relatives who may be in the dark about their enterprise.
The Zimbabwean sex workers then countered that whilst it was true that they were making a lot of money, it was due largely to the fact that they were professional in the way they went about their business.
“You see, in the first place, Botswana sex workers have no fixed prices and to make matters worse, they drink a lot and eat with their clients before they could go and interact sexually,” said the Zim sex worker, adding that, that consequently exposes local sex workers to unnecessary abuse.
This led to Minister Motsumi, advising the sex workers to police each other so that they would be able to trace or locate their colleagues in the event of any possible harm, and accordingly help take up the matter with the Police.
Trouble, however, lay in that, the only admissible charge would be assault, although the sex workers decried the fact that, for the most part, they are never taken seriously by the Police because of the perception that “what we do is immoral and unlawful”, said another.
Certainly, even people who engage in commercial sex are entitled to respect, and indeed they have rights too.
Even though, in the interim sex work may be lucrative, given its implications on children and future generations, as well as the high risk for dangerous diseases like cancer, especially for women, Motsumi, agued that, “the ultimate aim should be to retire from sex work”.