Nurses in Chiredzi are exposing women to serious health risks by terminating pregnancies in circumstances where they are not fully attended to.
Up to 90% of illegal abortions in Chiredzi are conducted by nurses. Police officers are also involved in human rights abuses by forcing juvenile sex workers to have sex with them for free.
This was said by sex workers at a Parliamentary Consultative Forum on health and sexual reproduction in Chiredzi on Tuesday last week. Three Parliamentary Portfolio Committees, namely Health, Women Affairs and Justice and Legal attended the meeting.
The committee came to Chiredzi after a resident Marko Shoko petitioned Parliament over rampant child prostitution around Chigarapasi Beer Hall.
About 40 commercial sex workers who attended the meeting said that their members have to terminate unwanted pregnancies from time to time and they are assisted by nurses from institutions around Chiredzi who charge $400.
They told the MPs that the biggest challenge of these illegal backyard terminations is that the sex workers are not given full care by nurses who are employed elsewhere.
They pleaded with MPs for the legalisation of abortion.
The sex workers also complained that their reports of rape and assault against their clients to the Police are not seriously looked into and most of them are thrown away.
Rosemary Chiguvi, a sex worker and National AIDS Council peer educator argued at the meeting that sex workers don’t enter the profession out of luxury. She said that there are many push factors including poverty, harsh economic environment and child-headed homes.
“There are many causes of prostitution that push even minors into the profession. There are also circumstances beyond our control that result in unwanted pregnancies and hence illegal abortions. We are approached by nurses who charge us to terminate pregnancies. They are involved in over 90% of terminations here in Chiredzi. Some of our members have died from these illegal abortions because of lack of due care,” said Chiguvi.
Another sex worker Lahoreuliet Gadzanai said tens of juveniles are joining the oldest profession due to poverty. She pleaded with Government to assist them with income generating projects. She said the juveniles are abused by Police officers who force them into sex for free.
The committees which were jointly chaired by legislators Dr Ruth Labode (Health), Misheck Mataranyika (Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs) Brian Dube (Women Affairs) and Jasmine Tofa representing SADC PF promised to present the reports of what they heard in Parliament without favour.
This will happen in the process of the enactment of sexual reproduction and rights laws.
The consultative forum was supported by Right Here Right Now Zimbabwe initiative which involves organisations like Population Services Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and many others.