Bleak Christmas for Prostitutes

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By Anna Ingwafa WINDHOEK For many parents, the festive season is traditionally a time to spoil their loved ones, but for a group of sex-workers – sheltered, fed and clothed by Stand Together – this is a time to struggle and try to make ends meet. These sex-workers are concerned about the fact that life is getting harder since the health of their ‘guardian angel’ and mentor, Father Herman Klein- Hitpass, has slowly started to deteriorate. “This father who cares for us is very old and has been sick for some time now, and we are afraid of what will happen after he goes” complained Heinnelie van Wyk, a member of the Stand Together group. The group is afraid that their situation is weakening and forcing some of their members, who were willing to change their lifestyle, to go back to the street. Herman Klein-Hitpass, a Roman Catholic priest, founded this day-care 11 years ago which provides sex-workers with food, shelter and hope. He also provides them with condoms to help them prevent contracting HIV/AIDS. According to Van Wyk, there are a lot of sex-workers being looked after by Klein-Hitpass, and the number is increasing by the day. The group feels that the government is not doing enough to eradicate poverty, which leads to prostitution. “What is the government doing to fight poverty if we are still on the streets selling our bodies in order to feed our families and pay our municipal bills?” Van Wyk asked. She is concerned about the number of children – some as young as nine years – who are engaged in prostitution. She urgeds the government and other stakeholders to help these young people with projects or provide them with homes and money to pay their school fees so that they can have a decent life. She said the majority of the sex-workers at the centre are HIV-positive and are unable to find decent jobs. “There was a time when some of us tried our best to break away from prostitution and we went to look for work. But the moment you tell your employer that you’re HIV-positive, they get rid of you”. Klein-Hitpass keeps Stand Together operating with donations from Catholic parishes in Germany. Namibia currently has an unemployment rate of over 30 percent, and the prospects of getting a job outside of prostitution are slim for many sex-workers as they are not educated. In the absence of intensive efforts to assist sex-workers, they remain vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. According to the latest Namibia Labour Force Survey, which was presented to Parliament earlier this year, 36,7 percent of the country’s population is currently unemployed, up by 1.7 percent since the 2004 UN Human Development Report. About 35 percent of Namibians live below the poverty line of one US dollar a day. This is enough reason for women to engage in the oldest profession in order to support themselves and their families?

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