Updated: Oct 24
Henry Mhango's article for the UK Telegraph exposed an unusual, extremely abusive and highly exploitative trade happening in Karonga on the shores of Lake Malawi; the sex for fish trade. Climate change has not spared the fishing industry, causing low water levels and other factors resulting in a disruption in the fishing industry, which has led to fish scarcity.
The buyers, who are mainly women, are suffering as they must compete with other traders for them to meet their own demands now that the supply of fish is low . As a result, the majority of them are forced to have sex with fishermen in order to ensure a sale.
In the article, several women came forward to confirm that they indeed have sex with fishermen and even do so sometimes without protection, putting themselves at risk of becoming pregnant or contracting STDs. Some even come forward to say that these fishermen even target younger kids as young as 12 years old.
Women have historically been the victims of crises, particularly in developing nations like Malawi. Consider the Covid 19 pandemic as an example. It was estimated that since the pandemic's declaration, 47 million women and girls have been forced into conditions of extreme poverty (Oxfarm International). Women are compelled to take any action they can to protect their families and selves from the effects of such crises, whether they are environmental, health, or social in nature. Sadly, since men are typically in charge or in control of various resources, they always find a way to take advantage of women in such situations.
Women are often the easy victims, particularly in rural areas, because they lack economic empowerment in a variety of fields. Women in such situations have very limited access to and control over productive resources, and they do not participate equally in existing markets.
While there may be several temporary solutions to the problem, the fact remains that economically disadvantaged women will continue to face issues like these because they are at the mercy of men who control everything.
In order to combat gender inequalities, exploitation, and gender-based violence which result from different crises, we must first and foremost empower women and girls. True change will occur when women become decision makers, those in control of resources, and more than just market participants.