Monday, April 14, 2003

Hobbs Gama Blantyre
African Church Information Service

Anti-AIDS crusaders launch clampdown on brothels

Alarmed by increasing HIV-prevalence, campaigners against AIDS have embarked on an aggressive exercise to shut down brothels sprouting in major cities and urban centres in Malawi.

The country is among others in southern Africa hard-hit by the disease.

Two million of the 10 million population are carrying the virus, according to recent figures from the National AIDS Commission (NAC).

Ministry of Gender, Youth and Community Affairs commissioned a survey that established brothels to be among factors aiding quick spread of the disease.

Brothel owners, who have since been threatened with prosecution, were found to be recruiting tender girls to "serve customers", cashing the fee which rarely went to the girls.

One of the anti-AIDS groups involved is Active Youth Initiative for Social Enhancement (AYISE). The director, Marcel Chisi, said they collaborated with local HIV awareness committees in Blantyre, where seven brothels have been closed in an operation that is earmarked to go countrywide.

"We appreciated information by the media that alerted us on the HIV situation in urban centres. Now that we have confronted them (brothel owners), they fear the legal penalty," said Chisi.

AYISE is one of the youth organisations lobbying government and donors to establish as many vocational facilities to discourage the youth and women from loitering and resorting to drugs, alcoholism and commercial sex.

Two years ago, President Bakili Muluzi ordered the police to arrest all [sex workers] and people earning their living through commercial sex. The act prompted criticism from women associations, who charged that the exercise was discriminatory as it targeted mostly women.

The police have since slackened their clampdown on women at night.

However public relations officer of police, George Chikowi, was quoted recently saying the operation was on.

"Prostitution is illegal according to the penal code. We shall therefore continue with the exercise," Chikowi asserted.

[World 2003] [News by region] [News by topic]

Created: May 2, 2003
Last modified: January 15, 2004
CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710