• Export services to lucrative South African market
Male prostitution is something that is not well known and or discussed in Botswana and most people think sex work is only associated with women. Investigations by the Patriot on Sunday has shown that male sex work community is growing in numbers not only in Gaborone but other areas especially in Palapye, Francistown, Maun, Kasane and Kazungula.
One of the reasons why male sex workers are not prominent like their female counterparts is that homosexuality is still stigmatized in Botswana. and that traditionally men are not supposed to be victims of sexual abuse.
According to those who are involved in the trade, male sex work is more profitable than the female sex work as they can sell to both female and male clientele. Ditebogo Nthapelang* (not his real name) is a student at one of the tertiary institutions in Gaborone and due to high cost of living in the capital city he has resorted to prostitution to meet life demands. “I started this trade in 2013 when I came to Gaborone and was introduced by my friend. We normally sell to divorced or widowed women whom he introduced me to,” he said fiddling with his fingers.
Asked if he is comfortable in the trade, the 23 year old computer engineering student noted that selling sex to women is not as difficult as the male clients. He started to engage the latter group last year. “They (men) are violent and most of them don’t want to use protection which exposes us to sexually transmitted diseases (STIs),” he said , adding that he is not circumcised.
The duo mostly meet their clients at high end restaurants and night clubs in Central Business District (CBD) and leafy suburbs like Phakalane Golf Estates and as such they must put on expensive clothes and always have to look presentable and attractive. But how do they maintain such high standards? "Some of our clients especially women buy these expensive clothes and colognes because most of them are well off with reputable positions both in government and corporate world,” said Nthapelang refusing to reveal names.
Unlike female sex workers they do not line up the streets to hook up with clients but use what he termed pay dates whereby they interact with their clients via social media through a closed Facebook page. Nthapelang reveals that he has managed to make ends meet and is living large better than some of the working class and ladies are always after him due to his good looks as he trains every day.
Lucrative market in Kasane, Maun and South Africa
Investigations by this publication have unearthed a lucrative market for male sex workers in South Africa in which Batswana are in high demand from clients who visit the neighbouring country for holiday or business trips. Mostly the clients are said to come from United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia who own holiday homes in South Africa especially in Cape Town, George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. Due to the fact that homosexuality is illegal in most of the Islamic countries most of those who are practicing it but hide under heterosexuality express themselves better when visiting South Africa where they cannot be seen.
According to a source who was once booked by an UAE client, they pay in US$ dollars and prefer male sex workers from Botswana as they are said to be clean and good looking. “There is an agency that hook up guys from Botswana with those rich guys from the oil rich countries. It is not only gay men who take the offer even straight guys with girlfriends or wives,” he said.
According to the source, who is staying with his girlfriend in Gaborone but frequently takes the lucrative trip, the Arabs are strict as they want someone who has circumcised. “The only downside with them is that they will give you poppers (muscle relaxers to facilitate anal penetration) in order to perform better. They don’t like using condoms and abhor them,” he said shingly.
Asked how much he can make per trip, the male prostitute who preferred anonymity revealed that they are paid around US$5000 for the whole weekend excluding flight fees which are paid by the clients. Another lucrative market for male sex workers is the two tourist towns of Kasane and Maun in which they are booked by clients mostly from European and Asian countries. “You will be surprised that most our clients are married men and in most cases came with their spouses and booked us rooms in which they can dash to us to satisfy themselves,” said another male sex worker engaged in the tourist towns.
Asked how they hook up with their clients, he said that there are websites which they mostly use and added that there is based on direct contacts. “You don’t just go to clubs and bars to flirt around, when you go its for meeting your client,” he said as he burst into a guilty like laughter.
Man for Health and Gender Justice
Coordinator of Man for health and Gender Justice Thatayotlhe Molefe said that they are aware of the male sex workers in Botswana and added that the community has always been there. He said unlike their female counterparts, male sex workers mostly operate discreetly making it difficult to help them. “We have programmes that are earmarked at helping them to access health services care and treatment,” he said.
Molefe said that male sex workers are not selective whom have sex with as long as they get financial rewards. According to Molefe most of male sex workers sell to truck drivers especially in Palapye, Francistown and Kazungula which are stopover towns for truck drivers.
Asked if he knew about the lucrative South African market, Molefe answered in positive adding that most of them prefer the neighbouring country due to its favourable laws and prefers even to go for treatment there. “I have personally heard about the South African market and I know most of them prefer it because they are paid much better than here,” he said.
Most of the male sex workers are tertiary students but even those who are working are also engaged in the trade, said the coordinator of Man for health and Gender Justice. A United Nations Development Programme (UNPD) 2013/14 annual report on Botswana has shown that HIV prevalence among sex workers was 62 per cent, while that among men having sex with other men was 13.1 percent, compared to the overall adult population rate of 18.5 percent.