Sex workers demand rebranding of Panther condoms

MASVINGO – Familiarity breeds contempt so goes the old adage.
Commercial sex workers who gathered at a Provincial Sex Workers Advocacy Group workshop at a Masvingo hotel last week made a clarion call for the rebranding of the Panther condoms which they said are being resisted by their clients.
The workshop was organised by Batanai HIV and Aids Services Organisation (Bhaso).
The Panther condoms are Public Sector condoms that are supplied for free and have been on the market for the past three or more decades.
The sex workers said at the two-day workshop that the Panther condoms were being resisted by their well-to-do clients who felt that they were of poor quality because of their lack of some of the characteristics of the condoms that are found on the market.
The commercial sex workers said that they sometimes end up having unprotected sex as clients shun the condoms. “The perception against the Panther is so bad that the sex workers sometimes lose clients who walk away when asked to use these Panther condoms,” said one of the sex workers who declined anomnity.
The workshop heard that the Panther which is nicknamed maDembare because of the colour of the pack that is the same as that of the country’s top team Dynamos (Dembare) is also shunned by students at colleges and universities who regard them as cheap and of poor quality. Students are said to have complained against the smell of the condom.
The perception against the condoms, said the sex workers has been worsened by the poor performance of Dynamos this year and the clients would say that this was synonymous with the performance of the condoms.
“As sex workers we know that Panther condoms are as good as any but the perception out there is very bad as many people think that because the commodity has no sweet scent like others and is for free, it is also of poor quality,” another sex worker said.
The sex workers who said the Panther was convenient to them because others are expensive then appealed to organisations that were represented at the workshop that included Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) and the New Start Centre to appeal to the relevant authorities for the rebranding of the condom so that it has an appeal to the market.
Peter Vhoko, the provincial manager for ZNFPC acknowledged the perception problem but however, said the Panther was just as good as any other.
He promised that the issue of rebranding will be attended to. The challenge however is that Panther condoms are not manufactured in Zimbabwe and the idea of rebranding would have to be taken to the manufacturers. There was also an acknowledgement at the workshop that the issue of rebranding had been on the agenda for the past five years.
The sex workers also proposed that the condoms should be accompanied by lubricants which makes the vagina wet.
In addition to the rebranding of the condoms, the sex workers also called for the manufacturers to bring the condoms with extra jelly or lubricant which they would then use to keep their private parts wet to avoid the bursting of condoms.
The sex workers also demanded for the promulgation of a law that protects their profession and added that if that happens, they would be happy to pay taxes like any other Zimbabwean workers. They pleaded for an arrangement of a pension scheme.
Reproductive Health expert, Herbert Chikosi said the issue of the rebranding of the Panther is one that all players in the sector should be seized with. He also said the call by the sex workers for jelly to accompany the condoms was justified as the sex workers were using vaseline in their place which easily caused the bursting of condoms. – Masvingo Mirror
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