This article describes the impact of sex work law and police brutality on sex workers in Zimbabwe
Locked in a filthy cell that was built for eight inmates, but filled with more than 25 women, Nyasha Maphosa, 32, a sex worker based in the town of Gokwe in the Midlands province, writhes in agony as the torture of the previous night takes its toll on her diminutive figure. She has endured 48 hours of detention after being picked up by the Zimbabwe Republic Police patrol team. The charge: loitering for the purposes of prostitution.
At her shabby one bedroom cottage, a day after her release from detention, Maphosa relives her ordeal, berating the police officers for their cruelty.
“I was just leaving the pub with two female friends when a mounted patrol team ordered us to stop for questioning,” says Maphosa. “Two of the officers were familiar to me because they were my casual clients,” she claims. “Initially I thought they wanted to do business. I was surprised when they handcuffed us and took us to the charge office,” Maphosa added.
At the charge office, Maphosa and her friends were told that they were under arrest for loitering for the purposes of prostitution. No statement was recorded by the police. Maphosa denies any allegation that she had broken the law. And, she says her stay in custody was horrific. Police officers would occasionally visit the cell and take her and her friends to another office where they would ridicule them and order them to perform demeaning and painful acts, such as demonstrating sexual acts, sleeping on wet floors and forcing them to relieve themselves in the presence of the officers
At one point during the night, a male constable took us into an office. He said that since we were prostitutes, he wanted us to show him how we do it with our clients,” claims Maphosa.