Rights lawyers secure acquittal for seven women in Masvingo accused of solicitation


MASVINGO – Seven women from Masvingo who were arrested and prosecuted for soliciting for prostitution have been acquitted by the Magistrates Court which found them not guilty of the alleged offence.

Sex work, prostitution in Zimbabwe: Seven women arrested in Masvingo for soliciting acquitted

The ZLHR intervened in the case, arguing that the arrest of the women was discriminatory, targeting them solely based on their gender. 

The seven women, namely Tanaka Dzoro (18), Martha Chirume (22), Sharon Mapurisa (21), Fortunate Chauraya (28), Stabile Mpandile (20), Cynthia Chihota (35), and Natasha Siziba (21), were arrested on 17 April at Mucheke bus terminus by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers. 

They were charged with soliciting for prostitution as defined in section 81 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. 

The trial began on April 22, with prosecutors alleging that the women were indecently dressed and soliciting for sex when they were arrested by ZRP officers from Chikato Police Station. The women's defense, led by Collen Maboke of ZLHR, contested these allegations.

On April 29, Masvingo Magistrate Linnet Mudzingo acquitted the women, citing inconsistencies in the testimony of the ZRP officers who testified as state witnesses. 

The magistrate also noted the prosecution's failure to bring to court some witnesses who should have been offering their services to the women allegedly soliciting for sex.

Sex work remains illegal in Zimbabwe under section 81 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) (Chapter 9:23). 

However, many have interpreted this provision to be unconstitutional, citing a 2015 Constitutional Court ruling that deemed the arrest of nine women for alleged solicitation as unconstitutional, as it deprived them of their right to liberty. 

This recent case in Masvingo adds to the ongoing debate about the legality and enforcement of sex work laws in Zimbabwe.

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