Wednesday, 08 December 2021 04:22 GMT

The forgotten children: Part 4


(MENAFN- The Post) MASERU – LIEKETSO, 19, never planned to live in the street or become a sex worker.
When she stole her parents' M200 as a school girl aged 16, she ran away from home, fearing that her parents would punish her with a beating. Thus started her life as a sex worker in the streets of Maseru.
Lieketso told thepost that she lived a normal life with her parents in Sixondo in Quthing district. Like any other child, she had the naughtiness that sometimes warranted spanking.

“But it was never my idea that one day I would have sex with all sorts of men in exchange for money or gifts,” she said.
Although she said she is to blame for the kind of life she is leading now, the police too are to blame because they turned a blind eye on her plight when as a child she reported herself to them in her time of need.
The Child Protection Act requires police officers to assist a child if in their opinion she is vulnerable or in danger.

Lieketso said after her parents discovered that their money had disappeared and that“during the week I had been living large”, she decided to run away from home.
“I boarded a bus to Maseru with the little money that I had left,” Lieketso said.
“It was already in the evening when I arrived in Maseru and I knew no-one. I walked up and down the city going nowhere in particular, bought some food for supper and suddenly it was night,” she said.

“Not knowing where to go, I reported myself to the Pitso Ground police and told them that ke phirimelletsoe (nightfall caught me on the way).”
She said the police told her that she was lying and that she should go home and stop playing games with them.
Being a child, she went out of the office and stood in the street where she found other girls who quickly identified themselves as sex workers.
“It was cold and one of them offered to take me to her home saying she was feeling pity for me,” said Lieketso.
Lieketso was taken to an abandoned government owned house that has become home to a group of sex workers. The house is situated along Mpilo Boulevard, about 250 metres from the Prime Minister's office.

The house belongs to the office of the Prime Minister.
It is in this house, during that night, where she lost her virginity to a man she did not know.
“The love-making was very painful and I was crying, hoping someone would come to help me,” she said.
“The man was not gentle at all and the woman who had brought me was shouting from another room saying I should endure it, everything would be alright.”

The next morning Lieketso had no money, knew no one in the city and relied on the sex worker for the day's meals.
That is how she started her foray into sex work.
When thepost visited the house recently interviewing sex workers living there, Lieketso arrived from Tšenola where she said she is renting a house.
Compared to the other sex workers we found at the house, Lieketso looked healthy and smartly dressed.
She had brought food for a fellow sex worker who is facing health challenges and can no longer work as a result.
She had also brought marijuana and cigarettes for the others.
For her sick colleague, Lieketso had packaged green vegetables, lettuce salad, beetroot, rice and chicken.

She had also brought 100 percent grape juice.
“This one is very sick but she does not want to take her tablets unless we are here to ensure that she does,” said Lieketso.
“She cannot take the pills on an empty stomach and I have to make sure that she has some food. If only someone could help and ensure that she has food, it will be okay.”
Lieketso said she has accepted her fate as a sex worker and her mother is now fully aware of what she is doing in Maseru.
“We talked about it when I visited home after running away. When I go home with groceries she knows how I got the money to buy the items,” said Lieketso.

“She had no influence in it, the choice was mine.”
Lieketso said although she never anticipated that she would one day become a sex worker“I am now one and I am not going to stop unless I get a job that will meet my basic needs”.
She said she once found work as a house helper and she temporarily stopped sex work but she returned to the streets after the job ended and she could not find another one.
“I have a steady boyfriend who knows that I sell sex,” she said, adding that marriage is not part of her plans.
Lieketso said she was in Grade Nine when she ran away from home.

“I was a child. Now I am a young woman doing what I can to earn a living like any other woman in town,” she said.
Like many other sex workers thepost met, Lieketso is living with HIV.
She is on life prolonging antiretroviral treatment.
“I make sure that I religiously take my pills. I don't know where I got the disease but I know how. I had unprotected sex with several men, some of whom raped me,” she said.

“However, I do not pass it to my clients because ever since I knew of my HIV status I refuse to have sex without a condom,” she said.
She said she pities little girls who join them in the streets“because they do not know what they are getting themselves into”.
“It is not every sex worker who will be successful in the trade, just like it is happening in every trade.”
Children, she said, should endure their parents' spanking and nagging“because the streets offer nothing but trouble”.

Caswell Tlali

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