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date: 30 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that the term ‘prostitute’ is part of the political grammar in Zimbabwe, used to discipline women’s participation in party politics. Rather than approaching the use of this term as an unfortunate but prosaic aspect of politics, it situates the term in the now well-documented history of colonial policing and administration. ‘Out of place’ black women were linked to chaos and social breakdown, spurring attempts to control their visibility and mobility. The chapter argues that in likening politicians to prostitutes, women who monetize their own sexual labour, the term reveals the extent to which the control of women’s bodies, sexuality, and labour remains a key focus of the post-independence state. Moreover, it examines the use of this term alongside the growing visibility and tacit acceptance of sex work in Zimbabwe’s cities. Drawing from media coverage and interviews, this chapter examines the careers of four Zimbabwean female political figures, Joice Mujuru and Grace Mugabe from ZANU-PF, along with Thabitha Khumalo and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga from the MDC factions. It examines how these differently situated women have managed their public visibility under such constraints by deploying, rebuffing, or reappropriating the term prostitute.

Keywords: gender, Zimbabwe, female politicians, prostitution, political parties

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