Friday, November 2, 2012

African prostitution, the motorcycle taxis and auto mechanics

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports

Goma prostitutes furious over motorcycle taxis curfew

Prostitutes in the city of Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, are furious. They say that since a curfew has been imposed in early October on the cheapest and most popular mode of transport, the motorcycle taxis, they are running out of business. 

By Gaïus Kowene, Goma

“In the past, when business was bad, I would still get something from the motorcycle taxi driver who would take me home,” says Zawadi Kabuo, who sells her sexual favours in the taverns of the Majengo neighbourhood, north of Goma. “He would spend the night with me and subtract his fare from the money he owed me. I have no father, no mother, no husband. What am I supposed to do to raise my three children?”

Goma has to contend with a civil war thousands of internally displaced people and now angry prostitutes and I assume pissed off motorcycle taxi drivers.

Armed attacks

Kabuo's financial troubles started early October after Goma's mayor, Kubuya Ndoole, imposed a curfew which forbids motorcycle taxis to operate after 6 o'clock in the evening. The argument behind this measure is that the drivers, many of them ex-militaries and ex-policemen, are suspected to be involved in recent armed attacks in Goma. Many in the city believe it has a strong link with the M23 rebel group, trying to cause a trauma in big cities, thus playing down the sense of control by the state. 

Goma is in fairness to the Mayor  the murder capital of the Congo as Alex explains. 

Motorcycle taxis are most popular among locals because they are cheaper than mini busses (1,000 CDF per night ride, which is less than 70 euro cents). Antoinette, another young prostitute, says it is one of the main reasons clients from a certain segment of society are no longer going out.
“The few clients who own cars go to nightclubs. But most people from the middle class stay at home. It’s just impossible for them to go out. And it’s our work that suffers.”

I assume the possibility of being murdered also enters into trhe equation.
In hiding

The alternative would be to work during the day. But this can only be done in the outmost discretion since prostitution is considered an abhorrent practice in the African culture. That is why Kabuo moved to a neighbourhood where she can receive her clients in hiding.
Her strategy is to pretend to be waiting for a date in one of the taverns. “During the day, customers who come to drink find me here. If they are interested in my services, we discuss the price then we get on with the act. Prostitution is my only means of survival,” she says.
African society is conservative in many ways but I just don't get the feeling that prostitutes are hated from my reading and my conversations with Africans in New Zealand. It is more an acceptance that sometimes people are forced into situations not of there choosing to survive. The other day I read on Chris Trotter's Bowalley Road blog  some thoughts on the effects of violence.
" The long-term effects of violence are even more useful to those who use it to exert power and control over others. People become extremely fearful – not only of the person or institution directly responsible – but of the whole world. Their trust in the essential rationality of human interactions is shattered. Very often they withdraw from society altogether. A terrible fatalism takes possession of them and not only the ability, but even the desire, to act independently is lost."
I don't disagree with Trotter but it would seem to me that when the levels of violence are acutely high and also the prevailing norm a new form of tolerance develops. The institutional violence that is inflicted on the population of Goma along with random lawlessness brings about an alliance of the oppressed and that is something Mayor Kubuya Ndoole needs to consider while trying to hold together his broken city.

Not secure

The curfew and its direct impact on the means of transport have also brought security concerns for the prostitutes themselves. Some of them walking back home late at night have claimed to have been often harassed and, in some cases, even raped by soldiers on patrol.
Sandrine: “The security that they brought makes us feel even more insecure. One night, for example, a soldier asked me for my ID. Because I did not have it and my pockets were empty, he forced me to have sex with him for free. He let me go only around one in the morning. I didn’t know where to go at this time of the night because there were no motorcycle taxis. It’s really pathetic!”

In effect the night has been abandoned to the lawless soldiers and there rebel counterparts. As I write this a Congolese friend has been here and his sympathies are very much with the motorcycle taxi guys. He can't see any good coming out of depriving them an income and quite possibly bankrupting them.
Mayor in trouble

Prostitutes in Goma want motorcycle taxis to resume their normal working hours, so that they can work in better conditions. They say if the situation doesn’t improve, they are prepared to invade the mayor's residence. 
“All of us sex workers are preparing to march down there one day," Kabuo lashes out. "We have already prepared what we will say to him. What does he expect us to do? Is he prepared to look after my children? We will go live with him and let him feed all the prostitutes in this city.”

Given the Mayor's options I think letting the motorcycle taxi guys work again might be a good idea. 

Meanwhile New Times  ( Rwanda ) reports

Unlocking sex trade dilemma

Alice Ishimwe, 30, is a married woman, a mother of three and a former commercial sex worker.

She quit the world’s oldest profession five years ago after a drawn out period of struggle with law enforcers coupled with harsh conditions she used to operate under when she was in her early 20s. 

This was the same period when many of her age-mates were already pursuing higher education. 

She normally traded her body from Gatsata, a suburb of Kigali City where illicit alcohol, commercial sex workers and auto mechanics mix freely.

The " auto mechanics " caught my attention what on earth have they done to be catagorised along side prostitutes in status. Even in liberal New Zealand we generally speaking don't encourage women into prostitution as a career path but guys who can fix cars are well respected. 

Ishimwe says that when she was young and charming, most of the auto mechanics in the area wanted to have a piece of her.


“I had quality time with the mechanics,” she told The New Times in a recent interview at a vigil of two prostitutes who had been murdered under mysterious circumstances. 

She wore a remorseful face throughout the interview, not because of the death of her former colleagues, but the profession that remains unlawful in the country.
Yes interesting to see the New Times angle I have given my opinion on New Times before
 " New Times Rwanda confirms it is a propaganda tool....does confirm my view that anything published by New Times is well... eligible for entry in the Booker prize for fiction. 
“Every single time I meet a Gatsata mechanic, it evokes memories of my nasty past,” she said as tears rolled down her cheeks.

“I am reformed. I am a human being; I feel ashamed. I have a family to provide love to,” she narrates.

She says she decided to join the trade as she was an orphan but later quit after realising that it was risky. 

“I feared for my life. My husband vends fresh food in Nyabugogo market and I am a house wife. Life is meaningful,” she says.

This is wierd reporting even for New Times. I sometimes think they just invent interview subjects.  

At the time, The New Times reported that a record number of 18 commercial sex workers had puzzlingly been killed.

When police established the motives behind the killings; some ranged from allegations of transmission of HIV to theft and married men who killed the commercial sex workers to mask their wayward habits.

The nature of the motives somewhat condemns the commercial sex workers into a life of vulnerability.

Isn't that just fucking hilarious tragic am I to assume that the police mearly established motives and then did nothing ?

Two weeks ago, MPs recommended that commercial sex workers be protected from assault or any other kind of mistreatment.

The legislators further advised government to closely examine and tackle issues that force the young women into the profession.

The meeting had been called by members of the Chamber of Deputies who advocated for a needs assessment for prostitutes and discuss strategies to accelerate the fight against HIV/Aids pandemic.

But civil activists argue the MPs fell short of looking at the root causes of vulnerability of the prostitutes.

Well we are talking Rwanda after all.

“Criminalisation of prostitution makes those involved vulnerable to any sort of assault; they live in a state of fear,” Aimable Mwananawe of AIMR Ihorere Munyarwanda, a non-profit organisation, commented during an interview with The New Times on Tuesday.

The Penal Code, particularly in its articles; 204 and 205, makes it a criminal act for one to indulge in prostitution.

“Passion killers target prostitutes – a prostitute cannot report the death of a fellow prostitute to police because that is the last place she can go at will,” said a city lawyer who preferred anonymity.

He argues that there is no precedence in the history of criminal justice, where attorneys successfully won a case pitting a prostitute, adding that criminalisation of the act serves no purpose but it makes those involved vulnerable.

Exactly prostitution is a victimless crime brought about in no small part in Africa by the failure of the state.

He asserts that governments can curb prostitution by encouraging family bonds and instilling of moral values among children as well as providing robust social protection programmes to vulnerable groups.

“It is not easy to enforce the provisions [penal code provisions on prostitution],”Police spokesperson, Superintendent Theos Badege, said during a telephone interview with The New Times.

“We need to empower them economically and arrest the vice by emphasising the essence of moral values to our daughters,” MP Pelagie Mukantaganzwa told The New Times yesterday.

I can sort of get a bit sick of the morality arguments how ever economic empowerment would go a long way to bring about a better society.

Authorities believe there are about 15,000 commercial sex workers in Rwanda. Most claim they practise the vice due to lack of alternative sources of income.

Just for the record the cost of a prostitute in Uganda is about $8.00 NZ ( $6.00 US ) I am guessing less in Rwanda and the DR Congo. Sex tourism is on the increase in Africa. It would seem that Rwanda has its priorities wrong once again.

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