Saturday, May 21, 2022

Sex workers still doing roaring trade – Sesonke Botswana

Despite a military-style operation by the government to shut down commercial sex work operations, the coordinator of Sesonke Botswana, the country’s first commercial sex lobby group, Keitumetse Legoreng, says that business is still as robust as ever. “Let me tell you something: sex is very powerful and nobody – not even the government, can stop it. Sex happens between two people and our clients will always know where to find us,” says Legoreng who is the founder of Sesonke Botswana. In an interview with the writer sometime last year, Legoreng revealed that there is, right here in Gaborone, something that by the language of her description has to be some kind of sex supermarket where a parade of clients cycle in and out round the clock to satiate their lust.

By her account, this supermarket is still as active as it has always been. Legoreng says that through its peer educators, Sesonke Botswana is also running an outreach programme. In terms of this programme, educators visit “commercial sex work hotspots” to educate the sex workers about a whole range of issues from human rights to safe sex practices to negotiation skills. With regard to human rights, Legoreng makes the point that when sex workers are arrested, they have a right to call someone as well as to know the name of the arresting officer.

Evading arrest is itself something that Legoreng says sex workers are schooled on. She wouldn’t reveal what tricks they impart with regard to that but would only indicate that on-duty police officers can be “very tricky.” “They behave differently from the way they do when they are not working. The same officer who is a regular client when he is off-duty will arrest you when he is on duty and often such arrest would have been preceeded by unsuccessful solicitation of a bribe or a freebie,” Legoreng says. Allegations of law enforcement officers patronising the services of people they are supposed to policing are not new and there may be evidence that that actually happens.

On Ascension Day in 2012, a sex worker beat an off-duty police officer blue, black and red within the archipelago of snooker-and-jukebox bars outside the Sir Seretse Khama Barracks in Mogoditshane while keeping up a running commentary of why she was doing so. The sex worker’s account (which unfolded as she cracked an empty quart beer bottle on the officer’s head) was that days earlier, he had not kept his end of the bargain while she had had hers. Alongside police officers, there are also allegations by commercial sex workers that while political leaders burn them in effigy during the day, some of them creep into their beds at night.

Sesonke Botswana, which operates from the Botswana Network of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) office in Gaborone, has no legal recognition because of the ideology it espouses. While groups like Nkaikela Youth Group in Tlokweng are focussed on rehabilitation and weaning women away from sex work, Sesonke wants to keep them working and in a safe environment. Whereas the former would put in place income-generating activities as an alternative to sex work, the latter uses them as another way to make money. “We are not into rehabilitation,” Legoreng says.

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