Tuesday, March 5, 2024

It’s a Dog Eat Dog : The Plight of a Prostitute in Botswana

Let me just warn you from the onset dear reader that even if you are a sensitive soul, please do care to read this piece. You may think that this piece is not so important, but then again it is crucially important. Sex workers in Botswana recently had a Pitso where they advocated for the removal of laws that deprive them of universal access to health care and judicial services. They stated that sex workers rights are human rights so they should be equally considered by law makers. The rights of sex workers have been advocated for a long time but the government is still failing to protect them. What has become more prominent in Botswana is annual rhetorical presentation by Hon Botlhogile Tshireletso after the State of the Nation Address calling for the decriminalization of commercial sex with no agenda set and clear lack of commitment.

In the more than 50 years of independence prostitution is still illegal in Botswana. Although illegal, more and more sex workers have become common figures around street corners and busy streets of Gaborone and Francistown. Dark streets, corners and main roads have become prime spots for their business. Sex workers cite poverty and lack of job opportunities as a reason of entering into prostitution. As the night creeps in and others call it a day, for some it’s the beginning of their shifts.  Sex workers are highly stigmatised they can no longer go to places like church because preachers stigmatise and discriminate against them and yet some of their clients include the pastors and priests. Tertiary students have also joined in the trade, they mostly moonlight, learners by the day and a sex workers at night. And you can imagine who their clients are? Ask any Man, CEOs, Managing Directors, Cabinet Ministers, Journalists, Pastors, Reverends, Security personnel and Senior Officers, Professors, Economists, Accountants, Bankers and Engineers etc as to whether they have ever bought a prostitute. You will be met with a hostile response. As HIV/AIDS continues to spread throughout the world, shadowed by increasing challenges to human rights at both national and global levels.

The virus continues to be marked by discrimination against population groups; those who live on the fringes of society or who are assumed to be at risk of infection because of behaviors, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender or social characteristics that are stigmatized in a particular society. In most of the world discrimination also jeopardizes equitable distribution of access to HIV related tools for prevention and care including drugs necessary for HIV/AIDS care. As the number of people living with HIV and AIDS continues to grow with different social structures and legal systems as is the case in Botswana, HIV/AIDS related human rights issues are not only becoming more apparent, but also becoming increasingly diverse. Botswana is finding itself at cross roads in trying to comprehend with the complex issues that are beginning to emerge such as homosexuality and prostitution. In the year 2010 at National AIDS Council former President Festus G Mogae opened up a dialogue and setup a tone and an agenda for discussion and adoption advocating for policy change for the ostensible beneficiaries who are often at high risk and sometimes called the ‘voiceless poor’ ÔÇô Commercial Sex workers and Men Who Sex with Men {MSM}. His actions were viewed with great suspicion.

Mogae’s commitment to his call was questioned as to why he saw it fit to present such a topic.    I have realized that ironically there is no term to describe the client of a prostitute, or the partner of a whore. There is a flurry of vulgar, derogatory, violent terms used to describe sex professionals when they are female: “bitches, whores” etc .but there is no term to describe a man who uses the services of such professional. Neither is there a term to describe a man who has sex with a woman who has many sex partners. There is a term for her, not for him. This is unbelievable and totally unacceptable. There are names for women who do certain things and not for men who benefit. I don’t want my son to think that it’s ok to take advantage of a woman’s vulnerability (or, for the sake of argument, lack of self-esteem) and, to add insult to injury, that it is OK to insult her. The system in most countries is patriarchal. There is therefore, need to have a systemic view of things if you’re going to have a clue in the world. The system is men dominant, men and puts them in a total comfort zone, women have to adapt. So really, whatever filthy argument can be dressed up, the presence of prostitutes is the result of male action. If there weren’t male prostitutes there wouldn’t be female. And really, the whole world is about prostitution, the whole capitalistic system is about prostitution. We give our health, physical and mental, our freedom and our independence to people we do not like, in environments we do not like, in exchange for sums of money that do not nearly match our potential. If you think that’s way far off prostitution, think to what would really push a woman to sell her body, and watch Matrix. Exploiting human beings, buying their sacredness and their morals, are two It is important to understand that the lowliest of prostitutes is human. It is also important to know that all the sluts, whores and what have you’s of the world including those found in churches, corporate prostitutes etc deserve respect and kindness.

We do not want our daughters for example, to grow up in a world where they feel that gender instructs them to do more for respect than men. Society should not grow daughters who grow up in a world thinking that prostitutes, whores etc. are worth less than the politicians, CEOs, Bishops, Accountants, Engineers, footballers and other low lives who use the services of prostitutes. Because it is actually the total opposite! Fundamentals of many modern societies, including Botswana must be aware and well informed that the real prostitutes, the real whores, are in offices, rocking expensive suits and, because of the hypocrisy of the world we live in, commend respect. There’s no bad word for them. For as long as something as basic as our vocabulary is discriminatory and predatory towards women, we as a race, as a specie and as a people will stagnate. The words rats and leeches are good starts. There is therefore, an urgent need to stop with the bad words. An important note to public policy makers and politicians as well as advocacy groups as they attempt to set the tone for agenda setting. It is important to respect life when we see it.

No woman in the world was ever a bitch. There is need for proper education which stems from fundamentalist tendencies. Knowledge of & exposure to the larger world outside your own forces you to see grey where others see only black/white, makes you more tolerant and less fearful of ambiguity. The more you know, the more you appreciate the depth of our collective ‘ignorance’, & this realization is at once humbling and edifying. Supremacist ideals in ethnicity, race, religion, cultures become abundantly cringe-worthy, and you sometimes struggle to accommodate them in your diversity treasure troves. You reconcile yourself to a life of perhaps perpetual uncertainty–the joy comes from the quest & inquiry, not in the destination–because you understand that the answer is only the beginning of another question & another.

With the prevalence of high uncontrollable libido reenergized by performance enhancing concoctions amongst old timers behaving like  recycled teenagers, it is Waya waya giving way to the Ben 10 Syndrome as Ama 14 are causing havoc driven in the immoral game by the BLESSERS. When it was first introduced the primary objective of Viagra was to revolutionize bedroom activity amongst married couples but it is now a menace and serves as a function of moral decay driving old timers crazy.

Thabo Lucas Seleke, is a Scholar and Researcher, Health Policy and Health Systems Strengthening



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