HARARE – The story of Zimbabwean women repatriated from Kuwait where they were held as sex slaves is the kind of nightmare no local should have to endure.
It’s a story you might expect from faraway countries where laws are lax and no one seems to care. But the nightmare happened right here in Zimbabwe.
The women were sexually abused by Kuwait nationals who employed them as domestic workers. Some were beaten.
It’s good that government is finally offering psychosocial support to the traumatised women. No one else must suffer their fate. Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister, Prisca Mupfumira, said yesterday along with the ongoing trauma of their ordeal, many face being shunned by their own communities.
The women need intensive psychological treatment. Most of them are traumatised and we have got to put them in a psychological frame of mind to extract information from them.
So far, we know several Zimbabwean women were lured to Kuwait by dubious employment agents under the pretext that they would get employed as housemaids but were later turned into sex slaves in the Gulf country.
So far, about 63 women have been repatriated back to Zimbabwe after well-wishers chipped in and provided money to buy air tickets for them.
As the economy here collapses under President Robert Mugabe’s regime’s economic illiteracy, more and more desperate women are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation.
The actual numbers aren’t known because of the secretive and sensitive nature of this business. Exploited women in these far-flung places don’t know where to turn for help.
The business flourishes, in part, because current laws do not sufficiently punish those caught sending these women abroad.
Until the demand side is addressed, the pursuit of profit will continue driving exploiters and predators down this dark path.
These women’s story of continual heartbreak underscores the tough challenges ahead for anyone emerging from such an ordeal.
That’s why we support Mupfumira’s efforts to provide counselling to these women, who in all fairness, are victims of the Mugabe regime’s misrule that has caused unprecedented unemployment here. The trauma suffered by the women and girls is truly horrific. Some have been repeatedly raped or sold into sexual slavery.
We are calling on the authorities to ensure that the women’s physical and psychological well-being is taken care of. We need to know how many women are in the hands of the Kuwaitis.
We hope the parliamentary committee currently visiting that country gets to the bottom of the matter.
And the Foreign Affairs ministry must be seized with such matters and not just globe-trott with Mugabe.