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Is sex work (prostitution) illegal in Zimbabwe?

Contrary to popular belief, sex work (also known as prostitution) is not a crime in Zimbabwe. Also, there is no law called “loitering for the purposes of prostitution!”

What does the law actually say is a crime?

  1. Soliciting for purposes of prostitution in a public place or any place to which the public has access to.

To solicit means to offer one’s services. What is criminalised is the act of offering one’s services in a public place. A public place can be any road, building, open space or other place of any description to which the public have access. It can be reserved for specific sections of the public e.g. doctors’ club. It could be accessible on payment only or not e.g. hotel or restaurant. It does not matter whether the right of admission is reserved or not e.g. private entertainment lounges such as the Platinum Lounge in Borrowdale.

  1. Soliciting for clients in print or electronic media for reception by the public e.g. using social media or a website and newspapers.

What is criminalised is advertising one’s services publicly through the media. Looking at the law it means if someone solicits in private, it IS NOT a crime. Calling or using Instant Messaging using SMS or Whatsapp targeting individual clients IS NOT a crime. The actual act of engaging in sex for money or reward IS NOT a crime. If a sex worker conducts his or her work indoors s/he is not committing any crime.

  1. Living off or facilitating prostitution is a crime.

The law intervenes when an individual keeps a brothel (a house where clients visit prostitutes) or is a pimp (a person who controls prostitutes and arranges clients for them, taking a percentage of their earnings in return).Our criminal laws are aimed at supressing sex work not totally prohibiting it.

Other conduct that is criminalised is aimed at preventing human trafficking for the purposes of prostitution and Child sexual exploitation.

This includes:

  • Procuring (Recruiting) people to become prostitutes.
  • Coercing (forcing) or inducing people to engage in sexual conduct.
  • Detaining people for purposes of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct.
  • Permitting young persons to be in a place where they will engage in unlawful sexual conduct.

Allowing a child or children to become a prostitute/s.

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