Poverty is driving women in Lake Malawi to exchange sex for fish. The prevalence of poverty in many lake-bordering communities in sub-Saharan Africa forces people to engage in desperate activities to make ends meet. They often have no choice but to engage in precarious activities that pose serious risks to their health.
This is the same scenario observed in Lake Malawi. Fishing is a fundamental part of daily life in Malawian communities near the lakes. For example, in most cases, a woman takes a fisherman’s catch and promises to pay him once she has made enough sales.
At the end of the day, the woman does not manage to make enough sales to produce the money needed to pay the fisherman, so she reimburses the man by paying in kind. This practice as a means of “compensating” can come either from the man or the woman. This may be an unwritten agreement or an explicit agreement.
This kind of transaction is not a new phenomenon, but a phenomenon rooted in these societies. But not everyone who follows this path is proud of it because many fish traders do not want their neighbors to know about these transactions. It’s a secret, so it’s hard to come up with a figure that shows the number of fishermen and fish vendors involved in this case.
In a society where the presence of HIV is a real threat, the risk of spreading the virus is simply too high. Poverty just makes things worse because people have little opportunity to improve their lives and make ends meet. It is a harsh, cruel and perpetual cycle. It is because of this poverty that the fight against HIV seems to be an insurmountable struggle.
“Poverty is the main reason why sex is exchanged for fish,” says Kachikho. One of the women selling fish in the village of Chisamba, Malawi, said: “Most fishermen want to have unprotected sex. They do not like condoms.”
As these conditions flourish, it becomes difficult to fight HIV. And this is then perpetuated by abject poverty. Fishing areas along the shores of the lakes are HIV sensitive areas. It is estimated that 1 in 10 adults aged 15-64 in Malawi is HIV-positive according to UNAIDS.
Life is certainly difficult for women embarking on the sale of fish. Some fishermen can escape with their equipment. They take the fishing net. They are given money and they refuse to give the fish to the men. It’s a difficult world.
Life is certainly difficult for women who start selling fish. Some fishermen can escape with their gear or the fishing net after transacting with the lady by promising her some fish. Other women who find better opportunities leave this work behind to start something new that does not put their lives at risk.
Swapping fish for sex is not easy for any woman. And fighting HIV becomes difficult in these circumstances. But if there are more opportunities for women and real attempts to reduce poverty, the lives of women in these communities will certainly change.