Dar es Salaam does not sleep. Night activities are varied and real. As petty traders line up the streets with fresh and imperishable supplies, promiscuity thrives on the other side of the cosmopolitan capital.
A weeklong survey by ‘Daily News on Saturday’ has identified at least ten distinctive styles of engaging in commercial sex business. Different groups but with a similar mission (money) keep the industry vibrant.
Enduring efforts by the Tanzania Commission for Aids (TACAIDS) and other civil organizations to stamp out new HIV infections seem to fall on deaf ears as the daring ‘enterprise’ continues to draw customers from different walks of life.
Dialogue with the ladies at the middle of this business is not an easy accomplishment either. Every minute has to be paid for, the ladies insist, “time is money”. Offer of drinks and bites could appease them to share information about ‘life in the dark’.
However, those willing to tell their stories attributed poverty, joblessness and pleasure as reasons for selling their bodies. “But the good thing about this business is that the number of customers is ever growing. They are of different calibres. Rich people of Asian origin, Europeans and Africans visit the localities for satisfaction,” ABC lady (anonymous) with tattoos on her upper arms explains.
More about the true nature of commercial sex business in Dar es Salaam includes involvement of young women both educated and those without a strong base in education. Majority of those who volunteered to speak confess that commercial sex business was not their choice of life but were left with no other option to offset hardships in life.
Each of the ten identified operation sites has distinct characteristics accommodating a specific category of ‘service providers’. In terms of functionality, the groups have one thing in common; ‘keep the number at a manageable level to minimize competition.’
The hotspots include Ohio Street, high-class drinking nightclubs and some of the tourist hotels in Dar es Salaam where ‘hunting’ ladies would wait for ‘hungry’ customers. These can speak English, a bit of French and Spanish. They have access to well-off customers.
An interesting revelation is that new tricks have been devised to extort large sums of money from customers in collaboration with some unscrupulous policemen. According to sources, the strategy has worked out very well. The police help intimidate customers who would prefer paying a ‘penalty’ to having been exposed.
The arrest is nonetheless imitated. The aim is to shake down ‘culprits’ to offer money. Some are reported to have paid between 3m/- and 5m/-. This is the trick; a lady at work would invite a customer for a quick service. But a secret communication with the police stationed in tinted cars parked in the vicinity is done.
Once the bargain hunter enters a prepared room, the lady would alert the police to enter the room under the pretext of room inspection against illegal commercial sex business.
“These are married men with families. It is a lot easier for them to open wide their wallets than having been embarrassed. Some are really prominent personalities. They give money which is shared with the police,” ABC explains.