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Marc Silver. A fisherman's boat makes its way across Lake Chilwa in Malawi. A large portion of Lake Chilwa dries out every year, and the fishing industry disappears along with it. Most fishermen then head to Lake Malawi, where there is fishing year-round.
Julia Gunther hide caption. That unlikely phrase is used in some lakefront communities in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world where men catch the fish and women sell the catch to local customers. In Malawi, for instance, a woman may take a fisherman's catch and promise to pay him once she's made her sales. Only she might have trouble selling all the fish.
So she might pay off what she owes for the fish by engaging in a sexual encounter. Either the man or the woman "just suggests, let's have sex as a way of compensating," says Benjamin Kachikho, a project officer with the Malawi office of the Timotheos Foundation, which focuses on social issues such as education about HIV.
A crowd of fish traders forms around a boat at Lake Malawi laden with usipa, a species of small sardine-like fish that are dried and sold all over the country. Or if the supply of fish is low because of overfishing, several women may vie for a fisherman's catch — and transactional sex may be used as a bargaining point.
The practice is "longstanding and quite engrained as a social norm," says Patrick Higdon, director of programs at the nonprofit group World Connect , which has worked to address this issue in Kenya. It's also a practice that a community may not approve of. The fish traders often do not want their neighbors to know if they engage in transactional sex. Because of the furtive nature of the practice, it's hard to estimate how many fishermen and fish sellers turn to this type of transactional sex.