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How climate change forces women and girls in Zimbabwe into sex work

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

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

Published Feb 15, 2022

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Cape Town - As Africa gets warmer, the adverse effects of climate change are not only visible in our day to day lives, which include sporadic weather patterns across the continent, ranging from drought, increasing intense cyclones and flash flooding, but as the global climate crisis worsens, opportunities to earn an income in rural Africa is becoming very slim, often forcing many women and girls on the continent to move to urban cities to work as sex workers.

According to Vice.com, around the world more than 55 million people have already been forced to move from their home communities because of extreme weather, and the climate crisis is expected to displace as many as one billion people by 2050.

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Catherine Masunda, the founder of Youth 2 Youth, a community-based organisation in Harare, says while statistics on the number of young girls involved in prostitution are difficult to quantify, the situation is worrying, news broadcaster Al Jazeera reported.

Furthermore, basic chores have become deadlier for women in natural disaster-prone areas, and those fleeing from their homes are struggling to access contraception, VICE World News previously reported.

According to reports, many will likely be forced to sell their bodies as they and their families struggle with extreme weather events that leave them with little more than the clothes on their back.

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

Furthermore, prevalence of HIV among sex workers in Zimbabwe is exceptionally high, estimated at 42.2%. Sex workers also face stigma and discrimination or lack of privacy from health-care workers.

Furthermore, a recent International Institute for Environment and Development report found the climate crisis is exacerbating modern slavery, which sometimes includes forced sexual exploitation.

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Women, children, and the poorest people are the most at risk.

Most areas in Zimbabwe have been hit hard by climate change with heat-waves, low precipitation, or excessive rain resulting in flash floods.

According to a report by the United Nations on women and climate change, women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men — primarily as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.

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