Mozambique prison prostitution exposé prompts inquiry

In Summary

• The victims said if they refused to comply they were beaten or punished with hard labour.

• One of the women told an investigator that she had ended up in hospital after being beaten and having water poured over her

Women protest against drugs, prostitution in a past photo.
Women protest against drugs, prostitution in a past photo.
Image: FILE

Mozambique's justice minister is to investigate reports that staff at a women's prison have been forcing inmates into prostitution.

Anti-corruption organisation the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) has revealed that for years prisoners from Ndlavela Women's Penitentiary in the capital, Maputo, have been taken to nearby guest houses to work as prostitutes for wealthy clients.

The investigative undercover journalists spoke to current and former inmates who said they were forced to have sex several times a week.

The victims said if they refused to comply they were beaten or punished with hard labour.

One of the women told an investigator that she had ended up in hospital after being beaten and having water poured over her - this tactic of plunging people into cold or dirty water is used by the security forces.

Other inmates spoke about wanting to take their own lives.

"There were times when I went out for four days straight," an inmate said, adding that if she had not: "I wouldn't be here anymore."

Borges Nhamirre, who co-ordinated the investigation, said their research showed this had been going on for 10 years.

“It was like a formal business happening in jail, we do not understand how the board of the jail, the commanders could not notice that there is something very strange happening,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

He alleged that the prison guards were benefiting financially from the sexual exploitation and even advertised when there was a new inmate

"The payments go from $50 (£35) to $500 per woman, it depends on what they called the quality of the woman, much younger the more expensive it will be.”

The women also alleged they were also being sexually abused by the prison guards. Statistics from 2019 show that Ndlavela Women's Penitentiary had 125 inmates.

The CIP has called for an independent commission of inquiry to be set up to look into their findings - to include the public prosecutor’s office, MPs and human rights defence organisations.