Boys, as young as 13, have found a new hobby: buying cheap sex from elderly commercial sex workers. ALBERT SHARRA went around some dark corners of Blantyre on some nights and reports.
The clock is drifting to midnight, but the premises around Chirimba Township market in Blantyre are still busy and noisy.
There are two sections of the premise separated by a path.
To the right hand side, all the vending benches are occupied and candles and torches are on. On sale is alcohol, which has been diluted and stored in 20 litres plastic containers.
One by one, imbibers of all ages are served through a plastic tumbler that costs K100. In between is another vending bench and spread over it are different types of condoms being sold like on promotion.
“There is HIV and Aids. Protect your life with K50,” shouts one vendor selling the condoms to woo lustful ones itching to seek sex at the premise.
Opposite the walls of the market are a stretch of bottle stores where girls and women of all ages almost naked leaning against the walls waiting for customers.
At the sight of a man walking into the bottlestores, a sparkling 13 year-old girl quickly walks in front of a man and wriggles her back seductively before grabbing by the hand the customer, who is in his late 40s.
She speaks in a low tone. In acknowledgement, the customer pats her back before they finally take to the counter to place an order. After some minutes of drinking, the pair disappears to the restrooms situated just behind the stretch of the bottle stores. Later, the little girl walks back to her waiting place for another opportunity.
The other highlight is a group of boys aged between 11 and 16 standing along the path. Some are drunk and others sober. In the group is a 14-year-old boy, we will call Chancy because of his age. He is neither drinking nor smoking. Looking at how he spreads his eyes, it is obvious that he is up for something. His eyes follow every skirt that moves from one bottle store to another.
“I don’t want to repeat. I want the lady in blue dress. She is new here,” Chancy tells his friends, while pointing at a commercial sex worker standing few metres away.
His friends complement the choice, as one mocks a lady walking in front on them: “I slept with this one already, and I did not enjoy her service”.
Listening to their stories, it is evident they are regulars.
After minutes of decision making, courageously, Chancy walks to the woman, who is in her late 30s. They discuss for seconds and the deal is sealed. They walk to a room she rents at K1 000 per day. About 10 minutes later, Chancy walks out and his friends shower praises on him.
“Did you enjoy?” asks one, and before he gives an answer, another friend chips in “is she expensive?” With a lustrous face, Chancy responds: “She is nice. No regrets. I paid her K400.”
One by one, the rest pick their choices and disappear. At around midnight, they start off for home. In their conversation, it is clear that the boys toil throughout the day to source money for sex at the place and for that reason; they do not want to make a mistake in choices. Surprisingly, while the adult men prioritise teenage girls, the boys prefer older women.
There is a reason, says another boy: “Women are cheaper and it’s better to sleep with an adult because you appreciate new things than what I experience when I am with my girlfriend who is an age-mate. It prepares us to be stars when sleeping with girls of our age and when we go into marriages.”
One boy in the group is in Standard Six.
Angella Wiley, a lecturer at the University of Illinois in US, writes in her booklet Understanding Children’s Sexual Behaviours: What’s Natural and Health that most experts agree that children do not learn about sexuality in just a day.
“By the time children reach school age, they may touch their genitals when they are going to sleep or when they are anxious. They may talk about sexual behaviours with others and engage in show-and-tell games with others.
“As they grow older, there is more desire to see how sexual organs of different age groups look like and in most cases they like watching pornographic materials or having sexual intercourses with different age groups to appreciate,” reads in part the booklet.
Chancy and his friends might be going through this stage. Not surprising though, he does this behind his parents. His mother (namewithheld) was in shock when The Nation visited her house situated less than a kilometre from the premise. She says it is news that her son spends hours at the drinking places.
“He sleeps in the boy’s quarters. I did not know that he leaves the room at night,” says the mother.
To save himself from more slaps, Chancy explains in detail that she goes with his friends, but he will never do it again. He says there are many of them, especially on Fridays and Saturdays saying others go for video shows. He also reveals that they do piece work after school or sometimes save the money they are given by parents for school snacks.
“Please do not publish this in the papers. I will talk to him down and take him for blood tests at the hospital,” pleads the mother feeling disgraced.
Chancy and her group in Chirimba are just an example. The practice is rampant across the country. At Chemusa and Kachere in Blantyre, it is the same story. At Bwandiro in Lilongwe, Paris in Mzuzu and G-String in Zomba apart from other busy rural areas, it is young boys and girls that dominate activities at drinking places.
Malawi laws dwell much on the responsibility of bottle store operators. In Malawi, Section 74 and 75 of Laws of Malawi prohibits both employment and allowing young persons aged below 18 to buy and drink beer or do any sexual activities in premises licensed to sell beer.
In an era of HIV and Aids, what should Malawi do to protect children like Chancy from such dangerous escapades? n