TORN APART with BOYD PHIRI
â€œTO be a mother is one thing, but to be a parent is another,â€ so goes an old adage.
If one sex worker of Mtendere township in Lusaka did not know about this saying, last week she learnt how to be a good mum the hard way.
Thanks to vigilant residents in the hood, who mobilised themselves and effected a citizensâ€™ arrest on her after she left her two children alone at home at night.
If you were also suspicious about the womanâ€™s nocturnal activities, I understand. It is a normal reaction, especially that she was not away selling tomatoes or boiled eggs on the streets, but sex at night clubs in the hood.
It was also quite normal for residents in the hood to take to the streets and scream, hule, hule, hule (prostitute, prostitute, prostitute) as they dragged her to the police station.
Of course, she was not caught pants down with another womanâ€™s husband although she was given taunts synonymous with such incidents in the hood, but the fact is, her childrenâ€™s cries in the night were enough to cause panic among residents.
Itâ€™s not common for children to cry the whole night in the hood, except when they are being weaned off a regular diet of breast milk by separating them from their mothers for a night or two.
Of course, children on a weaning programme are not left home alone â€“ often their grandmothers would be there to assure them that man shall not live on breast milk alone.
In any case, while all this process of weaning is going on, their mothers would be in seclusion somewhere, but certainly not at a night club to exploit the lust of men.
Obviously, the mothers would be overcome by emotions at the thought of their children being left in the hands of their grandmothers to start a new chapter in life â€“ a chapter without breast milk.
The truth is, until babies are old enough and brave enough to pee outside in the dark without being escorted, they need their mothersâ€™ protection every night, every hour, every minute.
Of course, a mother, whether sex worker or loafer, doesnâ€™t need to take her children with her to the bar to show that she is protecting them, but whatever she does in the night, she must make sure that her children have company at home.
If the Mtendere sex worker knew about this simple logic, she wouldnâ€™t have caused consternation in the hood to the point of having her name written in a docket at a police station.
Of course, sex workers often find themselves on the wrong side of the law, which is why when one is locked up in a cell at a police post, you would hear a randy constable suggesting to his colleague to have a go at her.
â€œMwami, Dolo (Dorothy) atiyendela lelo. Timu dilingâ€™e chabe achoke mwami,â€ meaning, â€œBoss, Dorothy has visited us today. Letâ€™s just deal with her and release herâ€.
Actually, it doesnâ€™t always go quite like that. Inquiries desks at police posts in the hood are always packed with offenders and complainants at night.
This scenario gives some randy cops no chance to have a roll in the hay with female inmates, especially sex workers.
So, the cops would release the sex workers back into the streets where they can follow them and have a friendly chat during their routine patrols.
Donâ€™t ask me about the HIV prevalence rate among cops, maybe the highest among the mobile populations.
Even if some cops might have known the Mtendere sex worker from their night patrols on the streets in the hood where she plies her sex trade, the matter was too serious for the police to let her go without caution.
What she did was wrong. Itâ€™s not like she needed a police permit to go back home to take care of her children left alone at night.
I am sure even a snake, which does not take care of its offspring, would not behave like that if it were created to care for its own.
I hope the sex worker was not trying to see how it feels to behave like a snake, going by a common saying in the hood â€œnjoka siyipapa mwana?â€ meaning â€œa snake does not carry its offspring on its backâ€.
I know that some people have suggested that she should have been bringing her clients home instead of following them to bars and night clubs at the expense of leaving her children at home.
Perhaps the biggest challenge a sex worker faces in bringing clients home is dealing with societyâ€™s suspicions.
Often, I have heard people in the hood saying, â€œaleta leta bamuna panyumba, azatiletela na bakawalala,â€ meaning â€œshe runs a risk of letting thieves steal from us with her habit of bringing men at homeâ€.
Bringing clients at home isnâ€™t easy, even when one is a professional sex worker. Itâ€™s hard to do anything, let alone business when children are looking.
But quote me correctly, I am not in support of any woman in the hood bringing clients home or anywhere else. In fact, some men have ruined the lives of girls in the hood.
They disappear in thin air after impregnating them, forcing them to resort to prostitution to eke out a living for their children.
Some force the girls to abort to conceal the evidence. The worse case scenrio is shooting and probably cutting off the head of a poor girl.
Perhaps this is why whichever way you look in the hood, you see a pregnant girl draped in a replica Barcelona jersey written â€˜UNICEFâ€™ on the belly, perhaps to remind her that she is still a child.
Donâ€™t think she is a football freak, the thing is, thatâ€™s all she has for a maternity dress bought from salaula (second-hand clothes), otherwise known as bend-down boutique.
However, women in the hood should know that being a mother is one thing, but being a parent is another.
To avoid being dragged to the police station by the entire hood, it is important for every mother to take care of her children, regardless of her occupation.
TORN APART with BOYD PHIRI