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Sisters! Brothers!

Liza Van der Stock | Tanzania, United Republic of

The Kiss: Male sex workers on Zanzibar – an almost exclusively Muslim island – are burdened by the double stigma of both sex work and sexual orientation, so that it is impossible for them to be themselves in the outside world. Therefore, Hans and Simon only feel at ease within the intimacy of their own room.

For many years, I’ve been interested in studying gender issues, disadvantaged groups and social taboos at the intersection of sociology and photography. When I had to pick a subject for my Sociology Master thesis research, it was a natural choice for me to focus on the troublesome situation of a minority group. During a holiday in Tanzania in 2013, I had become aware of the burning issue of sex work in the country.

Therefore, I was extremely keen to study the sex workers community. For this purpose, I investigated the social strategies adopted by male and female sex workers to deal with violence in their daily lives. I looked into the ways in which social networks and groups within the sex worker community are constructed and operate. In addition to collecting data through interviews, I also made this photo documentary to fit the subject in the field of visual sociology, in which research and photography are combined to arrive at a multifaceted, enhanced perspective.

During my stay in Tanzania, I have found that sex workers unfairly pay a double price: they are very often forced to earn money through sex due to circumstances beyond their control, after which they are confronted with rape, abuse, arbitrary arrests, torture and social exclusion. Through my photographs and research findings, I want to give a voice to women and men who are not accepted by society. I aim to show both inside and outside Tanzania that sex workers are as human as every other single person and by no means deserve to be victims. By combining these pictures with my academic research, I want to raise awareness for this unfairly neglected group of people.

The Zanzibar Youth Education Development Support Association (ZAYEDESA) is a non-profit organization which was founded in 1998 with the noble vision of tackling the socio-economic problems that youths face, such as unemployment, school drop-out, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and misuse of the environment. Its mission is to support government initiatives in making youths self-sufficient through self-employment following skilled vocational training and using their natural environment resourcefully.
H.E. Madam Shadya A. Karume, the organization’s Chairwoman and also the First Lady of Zanzibar, took the initiative along with other goodwill community members of forming this organization to make a positive contribution and realize change. Chairwoman Karume believes that the youth is the nation’s first priority and that the future of Zanzibar lies in their hands. Therefore, the creation of employment and work opportunities for youths and enhancing their skills is one of Tanzania’s greatest challenges, in addition to raising their awareness and educating them in matters of health and their environment.

ZAYEDESA aims to promote self-employment, entrepreneurship and continuous education and vocational training, to combat health issues (HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, mother and child care) and to raise awareness in environment protection and conservation.
Through ZAYEDESA, I established contacts with sex workers within the organization’s network. With their help, I got in touch with sex workers who were willing to participate in my project to capture their daily lives during a couple of weeks. It was my first and permanent concern to follow them in the most sincere and respectful way possible. It was also of the utmost importance to me that the people who were being photographed felt comfortable and secure at all times. I never took pictures without permission.

 +32 486 37 91 72
lizavdstock@gmail.com
Ajuinlei 15M
9000 Ghent (Belgium)

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