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Treatise on student hooker: juggling college, profession

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SOME call her misguided. Others describe her as a social misfit. Others say she wants to acquire finer things on a silver platter.

AYESHA CHIDEMBO

She is used to being called names and takes all sorts of criticism on the chin. We met 20-year-old Natalie as she carefully adjusted the straps of her little black dress and her pink lips broke into a shy smile, as she watched her image in the mirror.

Simba would perhaps not even notice the dress and how it stood against her fair complexion. But it hardly mattered; her body paid the price for the expensive dress that he had brought from his trip to South Africa.

He was her client for the day. She had invested much thought in deciding who to choose between three men who had sought her services that afternoon.

Daubing her favourite French perfume, she went out to meet him.

Natalie is a university student in Zimbabwe.

She has doe-brown eyes and white teeth, with a dazzling smile revealing the glow of her cheeks. Her hair swoops in coils over her neck and she is short in stature, with a queenly figure.

Even before completing her education, she has found her “perfect” job that offers convenient working hours and great money. She is an escort.

Potential consequences of her actions such as contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, meeting a violent or abusive client or being drugged and raped are far from her mind. Many in her profession have many sad stories, but that is the last thing on her mind.

“I belong to a middle-class family 90km south of Harare in Mvurwi and cannot afford a lavish lifestyle without working somewhere, my mother always sends money but it’s not enough and I don’t see myself asking for more from her. I utilise my free time to earn some money,” tells Natalie, as she flaunts a new cellphone bought recently.

Sex work for Natalie and other Zimbabwean women is a difficult and dangerous occupation.

Primrose Fundai, the director of Life Health Education Development Trust, told The NewsHawks about the complexities around sex work.

“When it comes to sex work, it is not easy to convince men as sex work is regarded illegal in Zimbabwe.’’

But Natalie does not care.

“We live in a society that judges people by their profession. A doctor or engineer might be considered a highly respected occupation, while a painter or a dancer might not be appreciated much for their choice of profession. A girl staying at home all day might be considered an ideal woman, while the one returning home late might lead to some gossip and speculation in the neighbourhood. Let’s not even get into the discussion about what society would think about a girl who becomes a sex worker just to lead a lavish lifestyle and I don’t care about how the society thinks about such,” she says.

Natalie is a premium-fee sex worker who entered the world’s oldest profession by choice. She has no qualms about juggling her university lectures with sex work.

“Many ladies sell their brain, l sell my body. What is the fuss about? I haven’t stopped going to school because my parents want me to, but sometimes I feel tired going for lectures after some nights out or I end up missing school after some bad days and good days too with clients. I feel our society is still very judgemental. If a boy and girl go on a blind date and end up having sex, that is fine. But if the guy pays the girl for sex, it becomes unethical,” Natalie said.

With clientele that includes businessmen, engineers and other well-heeled men she meets at Harare’s expensive joints, Natalie feels her sex work has given her exposure and comfort.

She feels her job entails much more than just the physical end of a transaction.

“I should be able to hold a good conversation on almost any topic as my hunting grounds are upmarket nightclubs and bars. I must say I have met some really good men in all these years. A well-read woman is actually a turn-on for many men. I need to be fluent in English and master something as basic as table etiquette,” Natalie says, adding, “And of course, I spend a good amount of money every month to stay in shape and take care of my skin. Clothes and make-up are generally gifted by my clients.’’

Natalie has been minting extra cash since she came from Mvurwi for school. With her parents not giving her enough money, she always felt she must come up with an unconventional way of raising money to buy everything she desires.

Her parents wonder how she manages to raise money. She has kept her sex work a secret.

“Well, the extra income is enough for me to pay my expenses, buy myself clothes, shoes and doing my nails, I am able to save a good amount and secure my future,” she says.

“When it comes to family and friends, it is a tricky situation for me to explain what I exactly do. I cannot imagine disclosing this to my parents. It’s impossible for them to understand. Only my friends who are in the same business know about it. It can be very lonely sometimes as you cannot share everything with your loved ones.”

She agrees that it has not all been rosy.

“The toughest part of my job is to stop myself from getting emotionally attached to someone. I also have to make sure that my client does not develop any feelings for me. Many of them are married and it can get really complicated,” Natalie adds.

On the other hand, Natalie feels her clients demand too much from her sometimes, which can be very taxing. “Men are crazy about having unprotected sex these days, even though many do not even know what it exactly means. I have to make sure that we always use protection, which many refuse initially,” she said.

Asked by The NewsHawks how she is treated and addressed by men in society, Natalie said: ‘’Some actually call me by name in a nice way but others sometimes would want to take advantage of me being a sex worker while others call me names, labelling me whatever they like.’’

Zimbabwe is one of 103 countries in which sex work is criminalised, leaving sex workers unprotected by the law and exposed to a range of human rights violations.

Studies show that sex workers often face violence from the police, clients and partners, heightening their risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. They also face stigma and discrimination from some healthcare workers.

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