This was revealed by a study titled “Young Women in Commercial Sexual Exploitation” commissioned by the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children and National Aids Council.
The study noted that during data collection, the research team witnessed Chinese employees at the airport construction company soliciting sex services for as little as $2 from young girls.
“One Chinese working for the construction company was heard saying to young girls; “F**** f**** $2”.
“In Hwange, the main reason reportedly pushing young girls into selling sex was household poverty triggered by high unemployment rates. In Victoria Falls, the main reason provided was the existence of the Victoria Falls International Airport construction community and surrounding communities in Lupinyu that are hit by poverty and lack of fees to attend school,” the report said.
At least 292 young female sex workers participated in the study.
“ . . . 68,7 percent of the young women selling sex reported that they take alcohol with almost half, 42 percent, of the respondents indicating that they took above six pints of alcohol per day or night,” the study said.
“This is worrisome given that children engaging in commercial selling of sex are already exposed, have low negotiating power and alcohol consumption will further worsen the exposure and reduce the ability for safer sex.”
It was also established that whereas girls drop out of school for a number of reasons, including teenage pregnancies and early marriage, the study also noted that established young women selling sex left school because of lack of school fees.
“Also around 14 percent indicated that they left school because they wanted to engage in their own business in order to generate income for self or take care of family and siblings,” the study said.
It was also noted that more than two thirds of young women reported starting selling sex below the age of 18 with the highest concentration being between the ages of 16-18.
“ . . . 5,8 percent became sex workers before the age of 12, while 18 percent started between the ages of 12 and 14,” the study said, adding: “While the general global consensus is that many girls across the world start selling sex at the age of 12.”
In terms of the type of sex done with clients, the young girls reported that 99,7 percent engaged in penetrative (vaginal) sex.
There was also a percentage that reported receptive anal sex which is much riskier for getting HIV.
The risk of HIV transmission during anal intercourse may be around 18 times greater than during vaginal intercourse, according to the results of a meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
One young female sex worker noted:
“Being young girls, we face a lot challenges related to our work. One of the biggest challenges is lack of negotiating power to safer sex which results in most girls acquiring unnecessary STIs.”