Spotlight on slay queens, sex trafficking in Diaspora
Romanticised dreams of greener pastures have for a long-time drawn locals to the diaspora, at times, young married individuals leaving their spouses and children in hope for a better future.
In many instances, they do not carry out thorough research on perceived opportunities, thus taking off without any solid employment leads or at least a reliable accommodation, let alone finances to live on until they start earning.
This has led to untold exploitation be, it sexual or otherwise.
Women being trafficked for sexual exploitation and slavery under the disguise of job opportunities as housemaids has become a common occurrence in the diaspora.
Audrey Chirenje's novel "Guilt" taps well into the diaspora dream, its misgivings and the untold struggle many women are encountering in its pursuit.
It is a tale of a slay queen who after realising that a man she had thought to be a wealthy saviour from her poverty is an abusive maniac, decides to leave him behind to seek opportunities to take care of her young child.
She travels to Botswana where she falls into the trap of a sex trafficking and exploitative cult who upon taking away all her traveling documents, forces her into sexual slavery.
A potential suitor who works in cahoots with the police to save her, ends up becoming her rapist and eventually the father of her unborn child.
"Guilt" exploits the issue of date rape, where many men force themselves on their dates, ignoring calls to stop, especially when their victims had shown interest in exploiting a possible relationship.
Date rapes are common and have of-late been taking limelight as more women are reporting them leading to the arrest of perpetrators.
In an interview with The Herald Arts, Chirenje said many people were ignorant when it came to date rape.
"Most people don't even know what it is," she said. "When you go out on a date, it is to have fun and enjoy, no one said the ultimate price at the end of it is sex. Men need to normalise and understand this.
"However, the reverse is what men understand; they would have paid for a meal, bought the woman stuff so they think they are entitled to sex.
"Most women will end up being coerced into sex, and out of that obligation comply with it."
Chirenje said it was hard to report date rape.
"You can't even report this type of rape to anyone, be it friends, family and worse off the authorities," she said. "They all assume because you went on a date with this person, you wanted it too. It is either the person is your friend or boyfriend, so it is obviously consensual, but will it be so?"
"Guilt" ultimately points out to the availability of opportunities in the country, even in the most remote areas if one cares enough to look."
It takes experiencing unimaginable exploitation and trauma for some people to retrace their steps home and find the decent income they would have crossed the country's border to seek.
Arguably a well-written novel with simple narratives that take on most common societal issues, including the wave of slay queens, small houses and men who hide under religion while exploiting women, "Guilt" is a great candidate for high school literature.
It is relate-able to many young people, which makes it an informative tool not only in teaching good writing, but also the value of hard work and good decision making when one chooses to be in a relationship.
Chirenje said she wanted to share a story from the "small-house" point of view.
"Small houses have a history and circumstances that drive them to make such questionable decisions," she said. "They regret it and have consequences that they live with for the rest of their lives. They are labelled by some and embraced by some, the guilt and self-condemnation always lurks in their conscience."
Chirenje said she was inspired to encourage people who are trying to redeem themselves.
"There are people who make mistakes and then try to redeem themselves," she said. "More often they make more mistakes and dig the hole deeper but there is a blessing in the storm. "There is always another chance waiting, don't give up on life."
Chirenje said trafficking was not getting enough spotlight.
"Human trafficking is not being given enough spotlight in my opinion," she said. "It is now very rampant in our own country though in the book I chose to use a foreign land as part of the setting where those incidents happen.
"Kidnappings are happening and people are going missing a lot, it is quite worrisome".
A marketer by profession, Audrey Chirenje is a seasoned author with six books below her belt including "Life Will Humble You", "Chances", "Appearances or Not" and a series of children's books.
"Guilt" was published with the help of renowned publishing and literature consultant Fungayi Sox of TisuMazwi.