By: Dianah Mutimura
Prostitution is illegal in Rwanda. However, a lot of factors are forcing young women into commercial sex to earn a living. There are also increasing cases of crossborder commercial sex in the region.
Although the government continues to provide alternative sources of income inform of loans to cooperatives of vulnerable groups, the factors that drag young women into prostitution haven’t reduced.
Igihe.com has since conducted a quick survey aimed at assessing the level of the problem of commercial sex in the Kigali city suburbs.
Claudine 22 (name changed for her safety) and her colleagues live in the same compound of small-roomed houses. This reporter chose to visit their compound with a male friend to cover-up as though he was a client intending to buy a sex service from them.
Our reporter says she remained at a distance as the male friend engaged. They thought she was also looking for a fellow female for sex. They insulted her demanding they would only collaborate if she gave them Frw 2000. Our reporter yielded to their demands.
Claudine is a mother of two children and is involved in commercial sex but she says that there is nothing good in being a prostitute.
She was kicked out of her parents’ home before she could graduate from high school, because she was pregnant yet she was under an organization where she run away and started her life as prostitute.
Claudine shared her life as a prostitute. She lives at Kanombe a suburb of Kigali city. Claudine lives with her two children. In a single-roomed poor house with no electricity. She sleeps on a 2-inch mattress placed on the floor. She pays monthly rent of 5000frw.
The fathers of Claudine’s two children do not give any help to her. Claudine has never seen the father of her second child she gave birth to while in her form four ever since she was expelled from school.
The other father to her other child is a married man she says cannot confront but instead she has opted for commercial sex to feed her children and survive.
Claudine reveals that she finds her customers at bars that have been in service for a while. She normally takes position at strategic spots especially at the bar counter.
She advises men who are not interested in services of commercial sex not to sit at the counter since it’s a spot aggressive sex workers prefer.
According to Claudine, sometimes a client can take a sex worker to the bathrooms and is paid between frw1000 and Frw3000 depending on the status of the sex worker.
She says national police have arrested her more than three times leaving her children in the house alone. This has kept Claudine and her colleagues in a constant chase game with the police. However, Claudine says she is aware of the laws against prostitution in the country.
“The police arrests us puts us in custody and the next day they release us to go back to our places and even caution us not return to prostitution. Unfortunately I cannot let my children die. I have to go back and play hide and seek with Police sometimes pretending to be a waitress at a bar”.
Claudine, admits that prostitution contributes highly to the spread of HIV. She narrates that her second child is a result of a pregnancy owed to a client.
She explains that there are high cases of unprotected sex among commercial sex workers. She also says that unprotected sex is charged higher than protected sex.
“When I learnt that I was pregnant. I was scared, took a HIV test, and found I was negative. However, I have since vowed never to have unprotected sex even if it reduced money I used to get”.
Claudine’s neighbours at the small compound where she lives gathered to express their complaints aganist prostitution in Rwanda saying the practice must be stopped. They stated that prostitution was not part of Rwanda’s path to development and, therefore, must stop.
Claudine supports that prostitution should be banned at all costs. She reveals that behind prostitution, there is illegal drugs business adding that her landlady who used to sell marijuana but stopped after being imprisoned twice.
On a similar note, Claudine revealed that there is a growing number of commercial hormosex workers. She says they operate around nightclubs including KBC, Serena hotel, Mille collinnes, Umubano hotel,lapalice nyandungu.
Similarly to Claudine, many young girls out there sell their bodies to earn a living where some claim that they are orphans, poor, and other others have high libido where one man cannot satisfy them.
The above case is a drop in the ocean of several prostitution cases in urban centers of our country. More efforts from government and stakeholders are needed to help provide alternative sources of income to the young women involved in commercial sex despite being aware of the consequencies.