DAR ES SALAAM – Tanzanian authorities are holding some 800 people for their alleged involvement in prostitution as the East African country undertakes a major crackdown on the sex industry.

Among the arrested, 500 are suspected sex workers (female) while 300 others are thought to be customers (male) who are paying for sex, according to Simon Sirro, Special Zone Police Commander at the Dar es Salaam police.

In the past, only the female sex workers have been arrested, but now their customers are also getting receiving the heat.

The swoops have been conducted in the Tanzanian capital as a part of a major operation launched earlier in March.

Tanzanian authorities recently voiced their concern over the increase in prostitution, especially among young teenage girls.

Health Minister seconds arresting of “customers”

Speaking during the commemoration of the International Women’s Day, Tanzania’s Minister of Health, Gender and Children, Ummy Mwalimu, expressed confidence that arresting both the women who sell, as well as the men who buy sex will help to end prostitution.

“I commend the police force for taking this step because both sellers and buyers of sex have committed an offence which deserves to be punished,” she said.

According to Tanzanian Laws, prostitution is illegal, but serious charges cannot be instituted since it is considered a mere misdemeanor under the country’s penal code.

Tanzania as a society is also very conservative and many residents see prostitution as “moral decay”.

According to a recent report, prostitutes charge as little as “10.000 Tanzanian shillings ($4.5, 4.1 euro) for a short time”

This is the first time that the police are targeting men buying sex. Critics, however, think that the move will disrupt the practice but will not stop it entirely.

Richard Wanekeya, Correspondent (Africa)