Malawian sex workers want business as usual

Everson Luhanga

Sex workers in Lilongwe say they will protest every day against government’s newly gazetted curfew regulations that prohibit anyone moving on the streets beyond 9 o’clock at night.

On Thursday, sex workers in different parts of the country took to the streets demanding that government lets them return to business as usual.

Escorted by police, a group of people, mainly women, were seen in the streets of Malawi’s capital singing and chanting. The group took a memorandum of grievances to the District Commissioner of Lilongwe to sign. 

But the government is not taking any chances in the fight against Covid-19, so is unlikely to back down.

In Malawi, prostitution is legal. But because of Covid-19, the government has shut down places where sex workers hunt for customers.

Dr Mudula Tembo, who works in Mangochi district as a dentist said it was the first time this kind of protest has been seen in the country.

“Mangochi is a district that attracts tourists and there are high levels of prostitution,” he said.

Mudula said bars, nightclubs and other areas which are usually loaded with tourists, have dried out due to the regulations put in place – and thousands of sex workers are devastated and left hungry.

The new regulations demand that nightclubs and bars be closed before 8pm but sex workers say the curfew hits their business very hard as their business only starts around that time.

“We want to be allowed to operate from 8pm to midnight as from this weekend,” Secretary-General of the sex workers association told journalists during the protest.

“We want to be business as usual and be open for business until the next morning.”