MULTIPLE divorce cases that have thronged Zimbabwe in recent years have caused a spike in the rate of prostitution, particularly among women.
Divorced women have mostly fallen victim to economic marginalisation.
Normally, when a couple divorces, their children are left in the care of by their mothers, who more often than not may find it difficult to fend for the children, thereby being forced into prostitution.
After the couples divorce, because of unfavourable economic conditions, they may end up paying very little towards the upkeep of their children, with many of them unemployed due to the current economic disaster the country is going through.
Chipo Madziri (not her real name) says she did not venture into prostitution by choice but because she and her three daughters from the former marriage had found themselves without the economic muscle to survive.
“I decided to become a sex worker after my husband left me with the children for another,” she said.
Chipo is now operating as a sex worker at a popular night spot in Dzivarasekwa, Harare.
“After I and my husband separated, I became vulnerable and could not pay rentals since I had no other means of generating income,” she added.
Like many divorced women, Chipo approached the maintenance court where she was awarded ZWL350.00 for the upkeep of the three children as the husband did not earn much as a security guard.
According to Chipo, the maintenance money was not enough to take care of the rentals, clothing, school fees and food for the three children.
“After I was evicted from where I was staying for failure to pay rentals, I went on to stay with my friend who was into prostitution,” she said.
Chipo also had this to say: “Observing how my friend was surviving through prostitution, I decided to join her. The ‘bar’ became my new way of life.”
Prostitution is generally viewed as a dangerous profession as it is usually associated with certain risks, among them physical assults by drunken clients, including the risk of contracting the deadly HIV and Aids disease and other sexually transmitted infections.
“In this line of work, I have to be extra careful everyday if I am to continue to look after my children because there are a lot of risks associated with it,” Chipo says.
Even at the rate at which sex workers get attacked and sometimes brutally murdered, Chipo still has no choice but to continue to gamble with life as she has the welfare of her children to think about.
“If it was not for the children, I would not have found me dicing with my own prostituting.
“I encounter a lot of problems in this trade, including sleeping around with everyone who comes up with money,” she added.
In Zimbabwe, prostitution has become the plight of so many women in economically marginalised areas, in particular those who go through divorce and are left in the care of the children.
Stella Chingwe (also not her real name), a divorcee and mother of two who plies in vegetables in Dzivarasekwa, said life was difficult for her and the children as money granted her by maintenance court to look after the children following the divorce was much too little for their upkeep.
“The worsening economic conditions in the country mean I cannot find a job.
“I am also not adequately educated so that I can get an opportunity for a job where education is the requirement.
“My only other option is to vend for my children,” she said.
Chingwe added: “Vending has also never been easy as we are constantly chased by the municipal police, who say we are not selling at designated points.”
Zimbabwe has seen an increase in divorce cases, with most men being the ones to initiate divorce proceedings. Statistics from civil courts indicate an increase in the number of divorce cases.
Social scientists and other experts have attributed this development to the general erosion of cultural values due to urban migration, domestic violence, adultery and other social ills.
According to the Zimbabwe Labour Committee 2020, more than half of the adult population in Zimbabwe earns less than US$35 per month, which is not enough to cater for a family of four as economic challenges persist in the country.
Single motherhood is a worldwide issue; research shows that there are about 10 million single mothers in the world today.