Former Cabinet minister calls for legalization of sex work in Zimbabwe


HARARE – In a stakeholder's engagement meeting held by the Economic Justice Women Project (EJWP) on Wednesday, former Cabinet Minister Nyasha Chikwinya emphasized the urgent need to legalize sex work in Zimbabwe. Chikwinya addressed the gathering, which included informal sector workers and legislators from Goromonzi and Kadoma, highlighting the severity of the underlying issues associated with the profession—issues that can only be effectively addressed through legalization.

Nyasha Chikwinya calls for legalization of sex work in Zimbabwe
Image: NewZimbabwe 

Zimbabwe is currently among the 103 countries worldwide where sex work remains criminalized, leaving sex workers vulnerable to a range of human rights violations without legal protection. 

UNAIDS, a global lobby group, has reported that sex workers in Zimbabwe often face violence from the police, clients, and partners, significantly increasing their risk of acquiring HIV. 

Shockingly, the prevalence of HIV among sex workers in the country is estimated to be as high as 42.2%.

In addition to these challenges, sex workers also encounter high levels of stigma, discrimination, and a lack of privacy when seeking healthcare services. These factors contribute to the urgent need for a shift in the legal framework surrounding sex work.

"Our country has come a long way with this matter and what I believe is that if we fail to solve a problem the way we wish there should come a time when we accept what is on the ground," Chikwinya said. 

"Sex work is reality. It is time a push for its legalization commenced. That way we will be able to protect workers in this category from the rampant abuses they are facing. Many here would also admit that these sex workers are playing a very pivotal role in our society by saving several marriages from collapse.

"Even if we reach that stage there will still be no problem at all because these sex workers are involved in a trade of selling a product which can still be taken back home in its original state."

Chikwinya's remarks echo the sentiment shared by many advocates for the decriminalization of sex work. 

However, Zimbabwe's history of stigmatization and antipathy towards the sex industry, coupled with the constitutional court ruling in 2015, which surprised many, has fueled nationwide debates on the topic.

The court ruling prevented the prosecution of nine women who had been arrested on charges of prostitution without supporting evidence of solicitation. 

In their defense, the Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) invoked the rights enshrined in the country's constitution, particularly the right to personal liberty and the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, and social spheres.

While the court ruling did not explicitly decriminalize sex work, it sparked discussions on the selling of sex within the country. 

It is worth noting that although selling sex is not officially a crime, soliciting clients, living off the earnings of sex work, and facilitating and procuring sex work are illegal under current legislation.

The issue of legalizing sex work in Zimbabwe continues to be a topic of intense debate, as stakeholders grapple with finding a comprehensive and sustainable approach that protects the rights and well-being of sex workers while addressing societal concerns.

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