By Harry Fisher
Desperate students at the Midlands state university (MSU) are peddling their bodies for as little as one dollar for a night of sex with strangers, Now Daily can reveal.
Some of the student prostitutes said they were doing it “to survive” as they were failing to access government grants and their poor parents or spouses could not take care of them.
“My husband is not working, so I have to take care of myself,” said one of the women, who was found making her ‘strange’ offer in a bar and gave her name as Letty.
Pressed on whether prostitution was the only way to make money, she said she had run out of ideas on how to raise money legitimately.
“I used to do part-time work after college, but now there is no work. My former employers have told me that the economy is going down and they can no longer take me on,” Letty said.
A recent study of tertiary institutions by the United Nations found that poverty was a leading cause of ‘transactional sex’ (prostitution) involving university students in Zimbabwe. The report said this was leading directly to unusually high levels of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections among students. An earlier report by the World Bank said students in higher and tertiary education institutions (HTEI) had become a high-risk group in terms of HIV/AIDS, on the same level as commercial sex workers and truck drivers. When students in Africa go to college, they might as well be going to a brothel in terms of sexual risk, the report found.
However, most of the studies focus on prostitution among students as a health (HIV/AIDS) problem and not a general social one.
“Poverty was the main driver indicated, especially with the rise in school fees for most HTEIs,” said the report, ‘Situation Analysis of the higher and tertiary institutions’ responses to HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe’, published by Unesco. “Poverty may determine what people do or allow others to do to them and influences ‘who has sex with whom’. Most people sell sex because they need money. Living in poverty leads to increased stress and anxiety. This in turn affects physical and mental health, limits personal choice and motivation for change.”
The report said “lack of adequate financial resources for basic needs leads to transactional and intergenerational sex” involving young students and much older partners known as ‘sugar daddies’ and ‘jelly mammas’.
Other factors cited included peer pressure “caused by the ‘swag factor’ – the need to emulate lifestyles of other students, with more material goods and luxuries at their disposal”.
The ‘thigh for a pass’ syndrome, which is “female students sleeping with male lecturers to get better grades or a pass”, was also blamed.
The report also highlighted alcohol and drug abuse, leading to risky sexual behaviour and forcing poor students to require large amounts of money to sustain the habits.
Unesco said enhanced freedom and idleness at the institutions also contributed to increased sexual activity in universities. The report said many students were away from home for the first time, away from control of parents, guardians and spouses, while others engaged in sex for lack of entertainment.
MSU students have become notorious for engaging in prostitution. Some have set up Whatsapp groups or posted nude photos on pornographic sites to attract ‘clients’.
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By Harry Fisher