By Anna Ingwafa
A new survey has ascertained that there is a high prevalence of commercial sex work at Oshikango on the Namibia/Angola border.
More than 100 women, including children under the age of 18, engage in commercial sex.
Most respondents said they were initiated into the sex trade at the age of nine.
This information is contained in a baseline survey conducted by the National Social Marketing (Nasoma) programme, which investigated sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and children at the Oshikango border post in the Ohangwena region.
The results of the latest survey were released last Friday at Ongwediva.
The research reveals that commercial sex workers target truck drivers and businessmen with preference given to foreign men and tourists.
Out of 141 respondents, 25 were under the age of 18.
Most of them are literate and proficient in Oshiwambo and English. The majority has primary education while less than 22 percent have been to secondary school and only one percent has been to tertiary institutions.
The study could, however, not provide statistics of trafficked women and children through the Oshikango border post or internally although sketchy evidence indicates that trafficking does occur. It further reveals that when foreign women and children are caught without travelling documents they are treated as illegal immigrants.
It also found that socio-economic conditions predispose women and children to enter the commercial sex trade and make them vulnerable to human trafficking.
Unemployment was found to be very high among women who are in commercial sex work. Similarly, there is a high school drop out rate of children engaging in commercial sex work.
Respondents highlighted poverty as the reason for engaging in commercial sex. Although the majority of sex workers consider sex work lucrative business, they face abuse at the hands of their clients and the public. The place where they operate from is also unsafe, the report stresses.
Condom preference and use among sex workers with both client and non-commercial sexual partners is not consistent according to the study.
“There is a high preference for male condoms compared to the Femidom.
Although the respondents like Nasoma condoms, they do not have the purchasing power and therefore prefer free condoms, stated the survey findings.
The study found that there is a high level of ignorance among commercial sex workers when it comes to what to look for before a condom is used.
They are also not proficient in identifying sexually transmitted diseases and factors that prohibit consistent condom use.
The study concludes that observation and discussions with different sectors of people at Oshikango border post and nearby villages indicate that although prostitution is disapproved in general, only two institutions are doing something meaningful to render HIV/Aids preventive services to commercial sex workers.
“Prostitution is considered to be exploitive to women and children. While there is general apathy on the side of service providers, the health status and human rights of sex workers are deteriorating. It would be of benefit to the entire community if HIV/Aids prevention programmes aimed at getting children out of prostitution and back in school and helping women find better alternatives other than selling their bodies are put in place.”
The study established that there is need for service providers to set a stage for more effective HIV/Aids campaigns targeting sex workers and clients in addressing the plight of trafficked women and children.
This would be the most effective way to reduce HIV transmission in Ohangwena region and ultimately Oshikango and nearby towns and villages.
The study says there is a greater call to raise awareness on women and children trafficking as well as capacity building of civil society organisations and Government to better equip them to identify appropriate remedies for the problem.
It suggests that there is need to develop skills of women in commercial sex work so that they engage in income generating activities as an alternative to sex work.