Sex work goes high-tech

Sex work goes high-tech

MASERU – Lesotho’s “ladies of the night” are going high-tech.
By simply logging onto Facebook, one can arrange to meet discreetly for a night of “unbridled pleasure”.
With the cold nights and Covid-19 restrictions, the sex workers have had to be innovative to survive the harsh times.
Ha re ktneng.

This is the shocking name of a Facebook group of people who have turned sexual relationships with multiple concurrent partners into a game.
The Facebook group’s members are mostly sex workers whose agents tout for customers online and facilitate meet-ups.
This name, translated in English, means “Let’s have sex”.
We have deliberately misspelled it here because written in Sesotho it might be offensive to some readers.

It is through this platform that many sex workers are getting a steady flow of customers and they do not have to parade on the streets with sexy pants to lure customers during the bitingly cold nights.
It is also a safer place, some of them told thepost. They do not have to clash with the police, whom they used to accuse of raping them under the pretext of arresting them for milling about.
Matšeliso*, 29, said she decided to become a sex worker to complement her textile factory income.

She said the pay from the textile factory in Maputsoe, Leribe, was so little that she could not afford to take care of her extended family.
“I am looking after my grandmother and my two children back home in Kolonyama. I am earning less than M2 000 per month and of that amount I use over M500 for transport. My grandmother does not have land to grow food, which means she is dependent on me for everything,” she said.

Each of her children has a different father and they are both deadbeat dads with no sense of responsibility, she said.
Most of her customers are truck drivers who deliver goods to and from the factories.
“They park there and start wandering around. I take the chance to talk to them and lure them,” she said.
The Facebook page has become handy these days as she meets her clients online.

Asked how much she charges for her services, she said “just a peck on the mouth is M20, a French kiss is M30, and fingering is M50 while penetration is still M50 for a round”.
“I do not agree to unprotected sex because I don’t want to die of AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.”
However, she said despite being careful “some customers raped me without using condoms, threw money on my face and disappeared while others even refused to pay me”.

She said she used to report such cases to the Maputsoe police “but I never got any real help although the police were polite to me and showed compassion”.
Matšeliso said a friend, who is also a hooker, introduced her to the Facebook group.
“She convinced me that it was the best platform to get customers we can take home instead of the rascals we get in the streets,” said Matšeliso.
The two decided to rent a room and share the costs. Business has become so lucrative that her friend has since resigned from the factory to focus on selling sex.

The friend refused to talk to thepost.
Another sex worker, a 25-year-old Lorraine, waits for truck drivers at the Maseru border gate but on the South African side.
“My original home is in Lekokoaneng,” she said.
“Police in South Africa are also my customers and in most cases I have their protection from other customers who want to have sex with me for free,” Lorraine said.

Lorraine has a university education, having graduated from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) last year and is looking for a job.
“I started sex work when I was a student at the university. The government would delay to pay us stipends and we would go down to Maseru to sell sex in the streets, along Kingsway,” she said.
Her friend in the industry introduced her to truck drivers across the border and ever since she never stopped the trade even when the government paid stipends timeously.

Even during last year’s Covid-19 lockdown Lorraine used to cross with ease to sell her services to drivers who were bringing essential goods to Maseru.
“I feel safe in South Africa than in Lesotho. Police there understand.”
Lorraine said she is “not very desperate for cash” because her parents are still able to look after her “but I became friends with prostitutes (her own words) at school and I became one”.

Lorraine said she has a friend who has a house in Ladybrand, “our hideout, where things happen”.
They are both members of the Facebook group.
Her friend, who refused to talk to thepost, is also a university graduate and is working for a well-known company in the Free State Province.
Thabang, one of the group members, said he has met many sex workers through the Facebook group.
“I am a divorcee and I think one day I will marry a sex worker,” Thabang said.

Two other group members just sent thepost pictures showing the middle finger as a way of objecting to the request for an interview.
The group has active members in Maseru, Ladybrand, Botshabelo, Bloemfontein, Qwa-Qwa, Welkom, Sebokeng, Pretoria and other Sesotho speaking towns in South Africa.

Sex work is illegal under the Lesotho Penal Code Act.
On many occasions police raid sex workers but the cases rarely reach the courts, although except once when a magistrate ruled that women should not be arrested for “wandering aimlessly” as this was not a crime.
To secure a conviction, the police and prosecutors need evidence that one has been soliciting for sex or exposing oneself in public.
Sex work has also been blamed for increased HIV prevalence in the country. Lesotho has the third highest number of HIV infections in the world.

Although data is limited, HIV prevalence among female sex workers in Lesotho is thought to be extremely high, estimated at 71.9 percent in 2017, according to
The online publication, in an article on Global Information and Education on HIV and AIDS, says many female sex workers report experiences of sexual violence and harassment including rape and physical aggression in Lesotho.

“Many had also experienced police harassment and are too afraid to access health services,” it says.
A 2014 Ministry of Health study conducted in Maseru and Maputsoe found that 55 percent of female sex workers in Maseru and 68 percent in Maputsoe had tested for HIV at least once.
Condom use is estimated at 64.9 percent.

Caswell Tlali

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