13 May 2019

Malawi: Prostitution On the Rise in Karonga As Sex Workers Hook Underage Boys

Karonga, May, 13 2019: Prostitution has hit red levels in the boarder district of Karonga as sex workers are finding solace in hooking underage boys.

While sex work is criminalized in Malawi, the secret escapade seems to be a hot business in the night confinement.

It is said after selling chips and other small-merchandize during the long hot day, the boys, who are less than 18 years old, get stuck in the sex workers' rooms for enjoyment.

The new trend is famous in areas such as Chilumba, Uliwa and Karonga Township.

Reports say the boys are charged MK1000 to MK2000 for short time, while MK3000 is meant for a night stand.

Chairperson of the sex workers, Mable Mhango, confirmed of the malpractice, sayingthe young boys have become the hot catch.

Mhango said for instance, the boys, most of whom dropped out of school, have become vendors and are the ones involved in the practice.

She said upon interaction with one of the boys at Chilumba, they accepted being involved in the practice, saying their parents do not take care of them, let alone giving them food.

"It is indeed true that sex workers are hooking young boys. The boys say they are doing this because of lack of parental care, claiming that the sex workers take good care of them because they are given good food before their escapades.

"We do not know if the boys are protecting themselves despite that we distribute condoms to the sex workers.

"We hear the boys are told to do things beyond their age during the act but we are doing our best to engage the social welfare office to deal with the situation," said Mhango.

Mhango said the spread of HIV is very high among the youngsters, saying both boys and young girls are opting for elder women and men respectively.

She said as sex workers, they are working hand in hand with Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) as well as Social Welfare Office to intervene in the situation.

Assistant District Social Welfare Officer for Karonga, Katoto Kamwela said his office is aware of the issue and will soon hold a stakeholders meeting to find ways and means of addressing the situation.

"The office is aware of the issue and with support from Livingstonia Synod Aids Programme (LISAP), we will hold a stakeholders meeting and thereafter, an awareness campaign to address the issue.

"We further intend to remove street children because recently, we have noted an increase in cases of sexually transmitted infections in the district.

"These kids are not old enough to reason or demand for a condom," said Kamwela.

Karonga District Youth Officer, Lapken Liwago said his office will take an immediate action against the malpractice.

He said much as Karonga District Hospital is making strides in addressing issues to do with sexual reproductive health among the youths, the sector faces challenges due to inadequate funding.

Community Reproductive Health Promoter (CRHP) for Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), Michael Gundaphiri, said his organization is working together with District AIDS Coordinating Committee, Social Welfare Office as well as Child Rights organizations to deal with the malpractice.

"We are working together with stakeholders to deal with the situation. As FPAM, we usually advise sex workers to put the safety of their lives and that of their clients as priority by making sure that they use condoms.

"We are optimistic that by using collective efforts, we will together curb the malpractice and ensure safety of our youngsters," said Gundaphiri.

The rate of early sexual activity among young ones is high in Malawi with around 15 per cent of young women and 18 per cent of young men (aged 15-24) reporting about having sex before the age of 15.

According to 2015-2016 Malawi Demographic Health Survey, there are positive trends in the adoption of safer behaviours by female sex workers which may assist in further reduction of HIV transmission in the coming years.

For example, the proportion of female sex workers reporting that they used condom with their most recent client was high, at 85per cent.

Roughly, a third of all new HIV infections (12, 500 out of 36, 000) in Malawi in 2016 occurred among young people (aged 15-24). Of these, 70 per cent were among young women.

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