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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | ZAMBIA: Risky business - Fish for Sex | Care Treatment, Economy Business, Gender issues, Prevention, Stigma Human rights Law | News Items
Saturday 27 May 2006
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ZAMBIA: Risky business - Fish for Sex

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Fish trading has become a viable industry

LUSAKA, 8 March (PLUSNEWS) - When fish are scarce in the Kafue Flats wetlands of south-central Zambia, and competition between fish traders is high, fish for sex deals between the female traders and fishermen are often a means of survival for the women, but this form of transactional sex comes at a price.

Research presented at a recent workshop on HIV/AIDS in the fishery sector found that female fish traders were increasingly becoming stigmatised by local communities because they were perceived as being a source of HIV/AIDS.

Consequently, the women were forced to be more secretive about their deals, and were reluctant to come forward for HIV testing.

In recent years, drought and a weakened economy have made fish trading, with its relatively high profits and little capital required, a viable industry. But the growing numbers of women involved in this business are finding themselves at a greater risk of HIV infection.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Basel and the University of Zurich in Switzerland, revealed that nearly one-third of the female traders interviewed had admitted to receiving free fish from a fisherman in exchange for sex.

Female traders had no bargaining power with the fishermen and relied on their willingness to give/sell them fish, especially when fish were scarce and competition between traders was high, it added.

Researcher Sonja Merten noted that the fish-for-sex exchange was sometimes based on mutual consent and permanent relationships between the fishermen and female fish traders sometimes existed. However, fishermen often also blackmailed female traders by declaring 'no deal no fish' - an offer many women could not afford to turn down.

Although largely driven by financial interests, many women chose to exchange sex for fish to be protected from assaults by other fishermen, she noted.

In the fishing camps female traders were vulnerable to violence and fraud, as the high levels of stigma and discrimination meant that they could not necessarily expect to find support if they were harassed.

Merten told PlusNews that many of the local female fish traders engaging in transactional sex were either divorced or widowed, while a few from one of the villages in the area were married. "When a household lacks money, husbands might tolerate such activities, although not openly," she commented.

The study found that condoms were rarely distributed, and prevention efforts failed to address poverty, gender inequalities and the risky sexual behaviour in the fishing camps.


Recent ZAMBIA Reports
A snip in time can save lives,  16/Mar/06
ARV rollout - quality not quantity?,  13/Feb/06
Promising new combination therapy reduces MTCT,  26/Jan/06
AIDS herbal remedies come under microscope,  20/Oct/05
Community benefits from free ARVs,  13/Sep/05
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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