BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
POLICE officers and municipal cops are allegedly demanding sex from female illegal vendors to facilitate their release, it has emerged.
This was revealed at the virtual launch of the informal women’s hub hosted by Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) on Friday.
The women also bemoaned sexual exploitation by land barons when they want to access vending stalls they control.
The women’s hub seeks to develop an inclusive gender policy for the informal economy, which will include eradication of gender-based violence and corruption in the informal economy.
Representatives of several civic society organisations (CSOs), who attended the meeting, said although women constituted the majority of the informal traders, they were exposed to various forms of corruption more than men, which hindered their success.
The CSOs’ representatives said sexual exploitation was the most common form of abuse which was being faced by female vendors in their day-to-day dealing with law enforcement agents.
Economic Justice for Women Project executive director Margaret Mutsamvi said the COVID-19 pandemic had worsened economic problems, resulting in more people resorting to informal trading.
She said State security agents were the major perpetrators of injustices and corruption in the informal sector.
“There is increased use of force and brutality by the State security officers towards traders in the informal sector as they regulate their operations,” Mutsamvi said.
“They use batons to beat vendors. They arrest vendors without clear charges and sometimes demand sex and bribes or even take away their wares without payment. Female vendors are also raped during the time they will be conducting their businesses. Apart from the city council and State security agents, customers also tend to take advantage of women by negotiating lower prices for their products,” she said.
Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development executive director Janet Zhou said women wanted to access equal opportunities with men, resulting in them being exposed to exploitation.
“Women suffer the greatest forms of corruption in the informal sector and this includes sexual exploitation,” Zhou said.
“The informal sector in Zimbabwe is heavily criminalised, hence women encounter law enforcement agents in the day-to-day running of their business. Most of the time, women in the informal sector are either forced or they offer sex voluntarily to space barons so as to survive under the circumstances they find themselves in while working in the informal sector. The laws against informal trading are archaic. They are not gender sensitive,” she added.
Viset deputy chairperson Rosemary Mudzamiri urged government to provide a safe working environment for women on the informal market.
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