“Sex for fish.” That not going word is used in a few lakefront groups in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the arena wherein guys trap the fish and girls to capture neighborhood customers. For instance, in Malawi, a lady may take a fisherman’s seize and promise to pay him once she’s made her income. Only she would possibly have trouble promoting all of the fish. So she may pay off what she owes for the fish by way of undertaking a sexual encounter.

Either the person or the female “just shows, permit’s have intercourse as a manner of compensating,” says Benjamin Kachikho, a venture officer with the Malawi workplace of the Timotheos Foundation, which specializes in social problems such as education approximately HIV. Or if the delivery of fish is low because of overfishing, numerous ladies may vie for a fisherman’s catch — and transactional sex can be used as a bargaining point.

The practice is “longstanding and pretty engrained as a social norm,” says Patrick Higdon, director of programs at the nonprofit organization World Connect, which has labored to deal with this trouble in Kenya. It’s also a exercise that a network won’t approve of. The fish buyers regularly do no longer want their friends to recognize if they interact in transactional sex.

Because of the furtive nature of the practice, it is hard to estimate what number of fishers and fish dealers flip to this kind of transactional intercourse. But it’s miles clean why it takes place. “Poverty is the principal cause for fish for intercourse,” Kachikho says. “If you’re poor, you’re stuck.”

Lake Malawi

Stuck — and at the chance. Kachikho and others in Malawi and Kenya trust that fish for intercourse is a contributor to the unfold of HIV in a part of the world where the price of HIV is high. In Malawi, about 1 in 10 adults a while 15 to sixty-four is HIV-advantageous, in step with UNAIDS — one of the maximum charges inside the globe.

The fishermen journey to one-of-a-kind fishing spots along the lakefront, after which carry their capture to the area people fishmonger says Alfred Banda, an outreach employee with Youth Net Counseling in Malawi’s Zomba district. If they have the virus, they can bring it right into a community, or if they end up inflamed within the direction in their travels “, they may transmit,” Banda says.

“The extra cell they’re, the more they endanger the health of others.” “The fishermen want to have unprotected intercourse generally,” says a 39-12 months-antique woman in Chisamba Village, Malawi, who sells fish and now and then engages in transactional intercourse. “They don’t like condoms.”

She became one of 19 girls interviewed approximately the practice with the aid of the German photojournalist Julia Gunther, whose snapshots are featured with this story. Partnering with videographer Nick Schonfeld, Gunther spent almost a month in numerous villages in Malawi in 2018 to report the practice of sex for fish. Most of the ladies requested that their names not be used because they fear they may face discrimination in their groups.

The 39-year-old woman advised Gunther that even when she makes earnings on the fish, intercourse can be input into the equation. “The fishermen will say, preserve the earnings, and I come to your own home inside the night. So that they sleep with me.”

Her feedback also displays the precarious lifestyles faced by way of female fish dealers. At one factor, “a few fishermen took my cash and ran away,” she says. And “every so often the fishermen are violent to me,” she says. “I gave cash to a sure fisherman, and he did now not provide me my fish. I took his fishing net. He turned into threatening me that if I take the net, I am going to overcome you.”

The women advised Gunther they’re embarrassed by using what they do to live to tell the tale financially. They do now not keep in mind themselves intercourse workers. They are genuine girls in difficult circumstances, looking to eke out a residing. Some are single moms. Others try to sell fish to help a massive own family.

Gunther did meet several girls who had moved on from promoting fish. Chrissy Masala stored enough cash to open a hair salon in 2013. “I decided to forestall due to the stigma and discrimination towards me,” she advised Gunther of the years whilst she traded intercourse for fish. “I changed into judged by way of others … My dad and mom, my kids. Even I judged myself.”