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Pimping is illegal in Mozambique, and there have been high-profile prosecutions of offenders. However, rather than cracking down on the offence, some police officers have been accused by sex workers of extorting sexual favours from underage girls in exchange for turning a blind eye to their activities. Tete is a significant terminus on the routes to and from the Indian Ocean port of Beira.

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“My foster mother would push a blue candlestick laced with pepper into my vagina when I was 13,” said Bemusa, who agreed to be interviewed on condition that her real name was not used.

“Each time she scolded me, ‘you must bleed and lose it’.” When the sexual initiation failed, Bemusa’s aunt sent two boys to sleep with her to ensure she lost her virginity.

Men paid less to have sex with “inexperienced” girls, her aunt said.

At the time, food was scarce and rice, a staple, had become too expensive to buy.

It’s well known that truckers spread AIDS along the routes they drive and that the women they sleep with along the way make their livings from selling their bodies.

The motoristas and the prostitutes are constantly informed by posters and radio ads and educational workers all over the subcontinent that unprotected sex can be fatal.

BEIRA, Mozambique (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Bemusa was only eight when her parents died of tuberculosis and she was left in the care of an “aunt”, who made ends meet by working as a prostitute in Mozambique’s second city, Beira.

By the time Bemusa reached puberty, her aunt wanted the girl to join her as a sex worker on the streets of Beira, a city known for its faded colonial grandeur, busy port and sleazy nightlife.

“I feel mad thinking of it,” Hoso told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change.

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