Women and children are the most vulnerable in times of economic crises. Too feed their children the women of Zimbabwe have been forced to trade sex for food. They are crossing the border into neighboring Mozambique, where they will have access to highly valuable American dollars. According to the Mail & Guardian, “the Zimbabwean economy has collapsed in the last decade, with inflation now running at 165 000% and the unemployment rate at 80%. The women who spoke to AFP said they were drawn by the possibility of earning money to send home, but most of them struggled to earn the equivalent of $20 (€13) a day. At times they get paid as little as 50 US cents for sex acts.”
With nothing left to sell these women must resort to the one commodity that they have… their bodies. Many will say that prostitution is a choice but when the impetus for the act is staving off starvation, it can hardly be called a choice. These women are not high class call girls working on 5th avenue, they are desperate mothers trying to support families, that are dependent on their earnings. Commodfying basic human needs like food, water, clothing and shelter is inhumane in that the most marginalized members of society are exploited because of their lack of access to capitol. Money is a social construction, and we have placed the value of it over and above humanity.
“The money is little, but if I save it properly I will be able to send groceries that will sustain my family for some days,” the 23-year-old told Agence France-Presse in the central Mozambican town of Chimoio.”We can not find jobs back home and here we do not have identification papers and that is why many women have opted for prostitution,” she added.”
Yes they “opted” for prostitution. We have a tendency to look down upon sex trade workers without examining why they have resorted to this for “employment”. To feed my child I would do anything. If the choice meant selling my body, so be it.
There has been an attempt on the part of NGO’s to focus on educating women in the third world. While I believe that these attempts are wonderful, they do not confront what happens when there are no jobs to be had period. With a 80% rate of unemployment, no matter how educated you are, you are at risk. Not only do we need to focus on education, we need to focus on access to land, and producing food. In our drive to advance, humanity has lost contact with the life sustaining capability of land. If women had access to land they could grow the food that their families need to survive, instead of resorting to prostitution.
Prostitution is soul destroying work. The body becomes the repository of male contempt for women. You will never speak to a young girl who dreams of growing up to become a prostitute. Intrinsically we know that, selling our bodies piecemeal to the highest bidder will reduce us to less than human; to a fuckable object without a mind. Prostitutes do not live in the moment, rather they take mental vacations while they are being fucked. They are not active participants, their bodies lie dormant beneath male bodies, meaningless and inert. This is the “choice” that the women of Zimbabwe are willingly making. Each night they risk violence,rape and exposure to STD’s. When we speak about poverty, we should never do so without examining how the cost of our separation from land has lead to the degradation of women. If your body is all you have left to offer, would you part with it for 50 cents to feed your child?