IT’S tough but we have got to keep on moving!
That’s a statement one gets from the eyes of a sex worker living with disability when she speaks about the harsh environment she operates in faced with sexual exploitation, theft of their valuables and robbery.
B-Metro, with the aid of a translator, managed to interview three deaf and dumb ladies of the night who have been in the industry for a combined 15 years.
Nompumelo Ndebele (23)’s biggest worry is being judged for being a sex worker when her colleagues with no disabilities are not judged but get more clients.
“This is my line of work and I am not ashamed of it but that doesn’t mean I don’t face criticism from the society — they criticise my way of doing business, mostly because of my disability. It is not fair that when one is not disabled the community does not mind their line of work but when it is people like me who wants to venture into prostitution it becomes their business,” she said.
Ndebele stays in Njube, one of Bulawayo’s oldest townships. Some of her neighbours blame her for her choices.
“She makes bad life choices. Imagine she is disabled and a woman for that matter, she needs to be faithful so as to find a man and settle down as her disability already diminishes her chances of getting a serious man,” said Tinashe Chindoroma.
Lungelihle Mpofu is another lady of the night living with disability. Her biggest problem is communication breakdown between her and clients that ask for her services.
“I face challenges with my male clients, there is always communication breakdown — it’s either he doesn’t understand how much I have charged him and how many rounds we have agreed on. Some of them have sex with me and then leave without paying — I can’t scream to alert the others,” said Lungelihle Mpofu.
Mpofu went on to add that one of her clients stole her phone and disappeared without a trace.
“One of my clients came in and since he was a regular I began to trust him, only to be left stunned when he stole my cellphone and I never saw him ever again,” added Mpofu.
According to Mpofu a lot of misfortune befalls disabled women in her industry as at times they are physically, emotionally and psychologically abused and have no voice.
“I was once raped by a client whom I had discussed with my price. He said that was too much money and as we were already in my bedroom he stripped me and had sex with me without any protection. After he was done he beat me up and since I cannot scream I just lay on my bed in pain and he escaped through my window,” concluded a crying Mpofu.
One disability expert who shared her views on the matter said:
“These cases are crimes, rape or abuse or any other crime done to anyone, whether disabled or not are against the law and whoever commits these crimes pays for them through channels of justice — the law speaks and arrests are made. We urge people living with disabilities or even those not living with disability to go to any nearby police station and report their cases.”