COVID-19 endangering Zimbabwean sex workers in South Africa

Before lockdown, Rufaro earned between R500 to R1000 per night however now she is luckly to get R200 per night


By Tulani Ngwenya and TimesLive


SOUTH AFRICA – Sex workers continue to suffer loss of income and increasing discrimination, harassment, and violence due to COVID-19 restrictions according to The Global Network for Sex Work Projects. Often illegal, sex for money in Johannesburg is readily accessible, cheap.

Zimbabwean migrants; women and men sex workers operate this most violent space of sex for money in Hillbrow and other areas. Sex trade is most times risky and dangerous.

The second wave of COVID-19 in South Africa is making their working conditions even worse with reduced earnings and loss of clients.

Hillbrow is often times ranked as the hub of nightclubs in the metropolis.

Zimbabwean migrant sex workers have for years earned money from this area. The now restricted spaces of the night club scene has influenced the decline of money that would have otherwise be made during normal times.

The South African President announced new measures around alcohol as a means of curbing the country’s Covid-19 cases, this has influenced greatly sex work in places alcohol would be sold and sex workers’ situation has deteriorated.

Rufaro, a sex worker for several years in the Hillbrow area spoke with Digital Sunday Express saying, “It is better for me to go on the streets and sell my body for money than stay at home and suffer with my children. What else can I do?”

Before lockdown, Rufaro earned between R500 to R1000 per night however now she is luckly to get R200 per night. It is now difficult for her to pay rent and feed herself.

“The little money that I now make is a victory each time because you can work and never get paid or be beaten up and left in the middle of a bush,” Rufaro said.

“It is now very difficult to make a living on sex work in South Africa especially us who stand on the streets, I am even thinking of going online as other girls are doing,” she added.


Pictures: Tulani Ngwenya

Sex workers’ access to treatment stymied by Covid-19 lockdown

Meanwhile TimesLive Reports:
The Soweto Sex Worker Project reported a significant decline in clinic attendance by sex workers since the start of lockdown. (August 2020)

Lockdown may have undone the strides made to assist sex workers with health care, said members of the Soweto Sex Worker Project at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

The project offers sex workers access to health care, social workers and legal aid. It ropes in former and current sex workers and offers help for reproductive health management, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and diseases, as well as counselling and other support services.

Much of the project’s work was halted during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the team is now working in the area to help track and trace potential Covid-19 cases.

Dr Maya Jaffer, who manages the project team, said they now make house calls, where possible, to ensure antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) are delivered if patients cannot come to the clinic.

“There are two components: the clinic and the outreach programmes. The clinic remained open during lockdown to deliver HIV care, contraceptives and treatments,” she said.

She said a lot of the clinic’s activity was generated by the outreach programmes, which went into the sex work community to encourage them to access the health services.

Jaffer said sex workers are a very vulnerable group because they were not high earners and had no legal protection.

“The bigger problem we face is that many sex workers in the area work between Gauteng and the North West. Some of these workers are stuck in the neighbouring province and we can’t chase up on their medication.

“Sex workers are still struggling and taxi fares have become a lot more expensive.” – Additional Reporting


UIF: Reports warn over short changing migrant Zimbabweans



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