XIX International AIDS Conference

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MOPDD0202 - Poster Discussion


Condoms as evidence: police, sex workers and condom confiscation in Zimbabwe

Presented by Sian Maseko (Zimbabwe).

S. Maseko, S. Ndlovu


Sexual Rights Centre, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Background: The moralisation and criminalisation of sex work in Zimbabwe creates serious barriers to sex workers realising their rights. This research sought to examine the specific role played by the police in violating the rights of sex workers. The lack of rule of law means police have extensive powers and often act with impunity. This research sought to highlight the impact of the behaviour of law enforcement on the health and human rights of sex workers, particularly around the issue of condoms used as evidence of sex work.
Methods: Twenty-one sex workers and six outreach workers were interviewed in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The research considered the relationship between police and sex workers, specifically the confiscation of condoms.
Results:
  • All 21 sex workers interviewed characterised their relationship with the police as bad, as 17 of the 21 sex workers cited harassment and intimidation from the police.
  • 17 of 21 sex workers said they had been arrested on charges related to sex work.
  • Sex workers said that the police practice of confiscating and destroying condoms or harassing and arresting sex workers with condoms had affected their ability to negotiate condom use in a variety of ways.
  • 5 of 21 sex workers said police had confiscated their condoms.
  • Those who had condoms taken from them, reported between 2 and 9 such encounters with police during the previous 12 months.

Conclusions:
  • The Ministry of Justice should encourage interaction and dialogue between sex workers and organisations working with sex workers and law enforcement agents.
  • The results also reflect the importance of ensuring that sex workers and organisations working with sex workers participate in the development of Zimbabwe's national HIV/AIDS Strategy.
  • A government working group should be created to explore the decriminalisation of sex work.


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