Lives at risk

Madagascar: How sex workers are getting the short end of the stick

By Jaysim Hanspal

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Posted on October 8, 2021 14:00

Beach_of_Ambola,_in_front_of_Vahombe_Hotel_-_panoramio © View from Ambola beach, Madagascar (Wikimedia Commons /
View from Ambola beach, Madagascar (Wikimedia Commons /

Visitors flock to Madagascar for its pristine beaches, easy-going island life, and a certain segment come for its sex tourism. However, when the pandemic struck, the flow of tourists got hit, leaving many sex workers to fight a two fold battle: how to make a living and how to get medical care.

Despite the fact that living off the earnings of a sex worker or operating a brothel in the country is illegal, buying sex is not, which means most urban sex work takes place in streets, hotels and shantytowns.

According to the UNFPA’s National Plan for Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health in Madagascar, 33% of Malagasy women experience violence in their lifetime. There are reports of domestic violence, rape and incest, sexual exploitation and pimping.

Travel restrictions have prevented foreigners from visiting the country, which means that many women who rely on sex work for income to support their families struggle to survive. “We are seeing more desperation among sex workers – they are lowering their prices and competing against each other,” says Timothy Irwin from UNICEF.

Sex tourism

For Nathan Stapley, director of Learn Achieve Become (L.A.B) – a UK-registered charity working

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