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Sex Workers and Livelihoods under the COVID-19 Pandemic in the City of Masvingo, Zimbabwe

Taona Museva, Godwin K. Zingi, Leonard Chitongo, Molline Rindai Ndongwe, Oswell Rusinga and Trust Mutero

Published: 2021/09/01


Pandemic diseases have always disrupted the livelihoods of people. “Key populations” such as commercial sex workers (CSWs), who are not legally recognized in Zimbabwe, have been affected during pandemics and disasters through loss of their livelihoods. The study sought to determine the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the livelihoods of sex workers in the city of Masvingo, Zimbabwe. A mixed methods approach was adopted for this study where both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Quantitative data were collected through 200 questionnaires out of an estimated population of 600. The study used expert and purposive sampling and employed unstructured interviews to capture the experiences of the target populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Quantitative data is presented in the form of tables and figures, and inferential statistics models are used to analyze quantitative data. A thematic approach was used to present and analyze qualitative data. Results of the study indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated the socio-economic situation of commercial sex work (CSW) through loss of income. Findings further indicate that as companies reduced the number of workers reporting for duty daily, contract workers who include sex workers were the first to be placed on forced leave, resulting in loss of their only source of alternative formal income. Many sex workers were restricted from accessing sexual and reproductive health and from collecting their medical supplies and contraceptives as security forces mounted checkpoints that denied people entry into town. It is recommended that Zimbabwean legal and labor instruments must recognize individuals engaged in commercial sex work so as to reduce their vulnerability during pandemics and other disasters. Keywords: COVID-19, Key populations, Livelihoods, Sex workers, Zimbabwe

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