The sex business has become one of the main activities of survival for some families in Nampula city. The large portion of women who embrace prostitution as a way of life invokes arguments related to poverty, domestic violence and unemployment. Two different stories of women in struggle shed light on what it takes to make ends meet in Nampula.
35 year old Rabia* is head of her household which consists of three people, two of whom are her own children. She lives in the neighborhood of Carrupeia, outside the Nampula city. Originally from Chiúre district, Cabo Delgado province, she came to Nampula in 1990, invited by a group of friends who encouraged her to use her physical attributes to make money.
In Nampula, the city considered the capital in northern Mozambique, Rabia started by living at a friend’s house and, later, when she started to earn some money, rented her own space in a modest residence in the city suburbs. She is unaware of the year in which she took up prostitution, but she recalls that at the time she was a teenager and lived in the village of Chiúre district.
“At that time, the main road was under rehabilitation and my clients were mostly workers involved in the construction and, later, I moved to Nampula in search of a job opportunity,” she says. In Nampula city, Rabia attended the khangalas – places known for selling traditional alcoholic beverages – where she was able to attract some customers.
“Later, I started in the manufacture and sale of cabanga,” she says. She received weding proposals from buyers when selling the homemade beverage and began getting romantically involved with one of them. The relationship, which resulted in the birth of a baby girl, was brief. The dream of forming a family collapsed. Without employment, Rabia went back to prostitution to ensure that she and her daughter had food. “I had no other choice. During the day I sell chicken snacks and at night I go to the street because the money is never enough to meet every need,” she says.
Her “place of employment” has been at the corner of the Pensão Nampula (a local lodge), later the Tennis Club and currently she leads a group of prostitutes who frequent an establishment commonly known as “Bar da Liga”, which extends from Eduardo Mondlane Avenue. “On every corner there are some groups. Once the profession attracts a certain number of women in a particular area, we chose to organise in shifts,” said our source. The prostitutes set the rates, the lowest price being 200 meticais. “There are times that we are obliged to charge below the established rate but this occurs on Mondays, because there is not much movement. On weekends, we make a bit more than two thousand meticais”, she explained.
Now that several years have passed, Rabia consider herself a true woman because she lives in her own home and is able to support the livelihood of her two children. She stated that the sex business is a “pretty tough and risky profession” and the women do suffer from physical assaults, insults, among other abusive situations. “I wouldn’t recommend that young girls adopt this life”, she said.
Domestic violence: drama that follows you through life
Unlike the women who go to the streets of Nampula at night to make money through various precarious situations, Argentina Luís, 34 year old and mother to 3 sons, originally from Ribáuè and current resident in the neighborhood of Murrapaniua, lives another drama. Argentina is victim of frequent physical attacks led by her husband, who goes by the name of Benjamin Raul. Her husband, who is unemployed, makes ends meet by selling homemade liquor.
In spite of the daily domestic violence she suffers, she does not think of leaving her home and, much less, to denounce her spouse. Her ordeal started in 1990 when the couple ventured to leave Ribáuè to live in Nampula city. In 1993, when they had their first child, her husband began to drink alcohol uncontrollably, and every time he returned home and insulted her.
After their first son was born, Raul stopped allotting money for household expenses and was always drunk. Over time the environment at home started to become increasingly tense and he started to physically assault his wife. At present, with three children, Argentina says that she will not be able to forget the tragedy that she has lived during her youth and which she currently still lives, since all of her children have been victims of the dehumanizing actions perpetrated by her husband.
In 2012, the couple moved to the neighborhood of Napipine, after having sold the house where they resided in Carrupeia. In this new location, Argentina and her children continued to be victims of domestic violence. However, after noting the treatment in which Argentina and her children were subjected to, the residents of the neighborhood decided to expel her husband.
Unable to pay the rent and feed her children, Argentina decided to follow her husband who had bought another house in the neighborhood of Murrapaniua, where she continued to be a victim of domestic violence. She waits patiently, hoping that her partner will change his behavior.