Namibia
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Desperate women turn to sex work at Oshakati

At most of Oshakati’s informal settlements, sex workers are not visible on the streets.

The town’s Okandjengedi bridge is, however, a hotspot where sex workers meet clients.

According to the local police, the sex workers at the town mostly operate at night.

The Oshana police last week embarked on a debushing exercise of the area around the Okanjengedi bridge where incidents of rape, gender-based violence, common assualt, sex work and other crimes regularly take place.

Oshana police deputy commissioner Otilie Kashuupulwa said the police have seen an increase in sex workers operating illegally for quite some time now, saying the problem is quite unique to the town.

“Sex work is illegal under the Combating of Immoral Practices Act. It is prohibited in Namibia, and if there are people or women found committing such acts … they will be charged and taken to court.

“It is dangerous for underage girls to take part in such acts. We have received quite a number of rape cases from most of the informal areas, including robberies committed against young women,” she said.

Kashuupulwa said the crime that accompanies sex work has a big impact on communities.

“Sometimes sex workers work with criminals, and when some clients stop to approach them, they get attacked by armed robbers and rob them of their belongings.

“Some men report such cases to the police, but some are ashamed to do so. Some sex workers are dealing drugs, there’s some mischief, there are some assaults, and counterfeiting.

“It was really necessary for us to organise a debushing campaign so we can clean up this space and keep it clean of criminal activities,” she said.

Kashuupulwa said sex workers are not protected by the police in any manner as sex work is a criminal offence, although criminal charges are difficult to pursue.

“I want to warn men who are picking up these women that they must stay away to avoid false rape allegations.

“Sometimes if a man goes with women and they fail to pay them, they can be accused of rape. As the police, we will open a case and arrest you – even if you are not really a rape suspect,” she said.

‘DISTURBING’

Oshakati mayor Leonard Hango says the rise in sex work at the town is disturbing and gives the town a bad image.

“It is a recent development where our young women have identified this area [the bridge] as a suitable area for such activities. Some are saying it is for income purposes, but it is not good, first of all for the town, and secondly for the country.

“Selling yourself for an income is an immoral act that is not supported by our supreme law, religious morals or the police,” he says.

“We are therefore encouraging these women to stop conducting sex work and find other means of survival. Namibia has created a condusive environment for everyone to thrive.

“It is disturbing for our young girls opting to sell their bodies for money. They should seek other alternatives to thrive and survive,” he says.

David Immanuel, a concerned resident of Okandjengedi informal settlement, says many young girls in the area have resorted to sex work for quick money – some of them underage children who have dropped out of school.

“The issue of sex work is concerning. We as parents are tired and we want the police to bring an end to these activities. Our young girls are no longer attending school because of sex work.

“They think it is a quicker way to earn fast money, but it is risky and dangerous. These men do not even use protection, and they can easily contract infections,” he says.