Malawi: Women resort to having sex with fishermen in order to get something to eat

Author: Lameck Masina, Voice of America, Published on: 2 October 2019

"Poor Women in Malawi Forced to Trade Sex for Fish"

Along the shores of Lake Malawi, poverty and food shortages are chronic problems, due to declining fish catches in the lake. Women facing hunger, or trying to feed their families, sometimes resort to having sex with fishermen in order to get something to eat.  Women carrying buckets each morning to buy fish at Lake Malawi is a common sight in the Makawa area. A less fortunate common sight is many of the women paying for the fish with sex. 

…“[The practice] really happens here. Most fishermen came to the lake with a mission that they will find women right here. But the relationships do not last, they only bring problems to village women,” Iman said. The women are lured into transactional sex when they don’t have enough money to buy fish, or when they accept an overture from fishermen, say local officials… Iman says, “If the prevalence of HIV infection is increasing in our area, it is largely because of fishermen. Women are too desperate for fish. And also most of the fishermen are just impregnating the women then run away, leaving them struggle taking care of babies.”

…Fishermen distance themselves from the matter. Yalid Nkhoma says using fish as a lure is tantamount to abuse of women. He says, “We don’t do that. If a woman doesn’t have enough money to buy fish, we don’t ask to do anything with her,” Nkhoma said. Different research shows that sex for fish in Malawi is more common between December and March because it is a period when the country is hard-hit with food shortages. To curb the problem, community leaders have introduced economic empowerment initiatives for women, including a loan program, to ensure they have their own sources of income and don't have rely on the fishermen to stave off hunger. 

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