MAPUTO, 17 June 2021 – Judicial authorities in Mozambique are probing allegations that staff at a women’s prison have been forcing inmates into prostitution.
Prisoners from Ndlavela Women’s Penitentiary in the capital, Maputo, have been taken to nearby guest houses to work as prostitutes for wealthy clients, an anti-corruption NGO revealed in a recent report.
The Center for Public Integrity (CIP) said the acts of prostitution have been ongoing for years.
The coordinator of the investigation, Borges Nhamirre, said their research pointed to the fact that this dirty business had been in existence for at least ten 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,” Nhamirre told the BBC Wednesday in an interview.
Some prison administrators have been allegedly profiteering from prison serving the role of a penitentiary as well as the role of a brothel.
Investigative undercover journalists who spoke with current and former inmates reported that inmates confirmed being forced to do sex work several times a week.
Victims said they were beaten or punished to do hard labor if they refused to prostitute themselves.
One inmate was cited in the reports as ending up in a hospital after being badly beaten for refusing to engage in prostitution and getting plunge in cold or soiled water.
Some inmates said they were so angered by the experience that they had to fight the urge of taking their own lives.
One inmate even suggested that she believed she would have been killed had she not complied with the demands of the prison administrators profiteering from the human trafficking scheme.
“There were times when I went out for four days straight,” one inmate told reporters, adding that if she had failed to comply “I wouldn’t be here anymore”.
Nhamirre said prison guards also benefited financially from the sexual exploitation of inmates, going to the extent of advertising to rich clients whenever a new inmate was going to join the forced sex work line.
“The payments go from $50 to $500 per woman, it depends on what they called the quality of the woman, much younger the more expensive it will be,” Nhamirre told the BBC.
The research documented sexual abuse of inmates by prison guards.
Ndlavela Women’s Penitentiary has housed 125 inmates since 2019, according to official statistics cited by the CIP report.
CIP called in its report for the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the abuse of inmates at the penitentiary – a demand that the government of Mozambique is yet to honor.