The Herald (Harare)

14 April 2007

Zimbabwe: Gay Prostitution Hits Streets of Harare

Harare — GAY prostitution is moving out of the shadows in Harare.

Although male prostitutes have been working Harare's streets for decades, seeking wealthy gay men wanting a quick liaison they have become more open, moving into nightclubs and bars seeking clients rather than hiding in the dark.

In the 1970s Africa Unity Square, on the Third Street side, used to be a favourite hunting ground for male prostitutes. A dense patch of shrubbery provided sufficient cover. Later, as the ladies of the night expanded their territory from Kaguvi Street into the upper Avenues, the male prostitutes followed suit, although in far smaller numbers.

Residents complaining about the rampant soliciting in the later 1980s also complained about the young men and when the police finally launched a crackdown on immorality, the men disappeared along with most of the women.

Besides this social nuisance there is a far darker side to male prostitution with persistent reports that some gays target children living on the streets. That still remains secretive and hidden.

But adult male prostitution is slowly moving out of the shadows. Gay business is brisk with several nightclubs like Pensao and Tipperary's being the most fertile hunting grounds for males seeking relationships with members of the same sex.

During visits to Pensao and Tipperary's identifying "gays for sale" at first seemed impossible but, just like the women, the gay prostitutes are the ones who approach and solicit for clients.

"Hi girlfriend," the gays greet their prospective sexual partners on entry at one of the clubs. By identifying one as girlfriend, it would mean that if that person decides to become intimate with any one of those gays, then he would play the female role.

The same applies with one being identified as boyfriend, the client plays the man's part.

So rife is the practice that it is openly discussed as gay patrons enjoy their drinks and our investigations revealed that some gays don't like partners who are smokers and hard drinkers.

But how much does it take for a one-night stand with a "girlfriend" or "boyfriend" of your choice? According to one "Phillipa", who had shown interest in having me as his boyfriend, $200 000 was just about the minimum.

"Short time party, $200 000 is cool boyfriend," he cooed with a seductive smile.

He was clad in a pair of tight hipsters, tight muscle shirt and a head-turning perm hairstyle, not mentioning the expensive perfume that he was wearing.

Besides his hoarse male voice, Phillipa's gestures, smile, eyes and moves in front of me were feminine.

"We can't walk from here to my place, why not hire a cab," he said. The women seeking men gave the same warnings. The police pounce on known prostitutes walking the streets with clients.

A second gay prostitute introduced himself as Mobby.

He was tall, muscular and so imposing that a first glance at him would make one assume that he was either a wrestler or a top-notch bodybuilder.

We chatted for a while before he asked for a soft drink.

"I would prefer a soft drink girlfriend. Sprite, lemon anything soft," he said with a smile.

It was surprising that Mobby's voice was even lighter and sharper than Phillipa's.

I quietly made my excuses and fled.

But it seems Harare can offer anything.

Several prominent personalities have in the past been implicated in cases of picking up men in nightclubs with the shocking revelations that former chief executive officer of the then Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Alum Mpofu resigned following allegations of his involvement in homosexual acts at a nightclub in Harare.

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