Zambian prostitutes in marriage appeal on reality TV

Precious Kawainga, 28 - one of the contestants
Image caption Precious Kawainga said she became a prostitute to feed her children

A Zambian TV channel has launched a reality show to help former prostitutes find husbands.

The 18 sex workers stand to win a cash prize of about $9,000 (£5,500) and have their wedding paid for.

Muvi TV, which is hosting the Ready for Marriage show, said it wanted to give them a second chance in life.

"We want to make a difference to women's lives. These are people, after all," its spokesperson Corrina Paolini said.

The BBC's Mutuna Chanda in the capital, Lusaka, says there has been little controversy around the show.

No other women have been included in the contest.

A local preacher, Reverend Jeff Musonda, gave his qualified support to the sex workers' participation.

"If those people have transformed and stopped their acts, I find no problem. But if it's just for wooing viewership, I would have reservations," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

'Consolation prize'

Muvi TV said it had recruited the women from the streets in different parts of the country.

Some contestants said they sold their bodies because they were single mothers who could not afford to look after their children.

"I needed to sustain my living and that of my [two] children," Precious Kawainga, 28, said.

"I found prostitution because of rejection. The father to my children turned his back on me," said another.

Muvi TV said all contestants who were voted out by viewers would receive consolation prizes of between $1,000 and $1,500.

They would also be offered full-time jobs so that they did not return to prostitution, it said.

The reaction of viewers in the capital, Lusaka, has been mixed.

"Once a prostitute, always a prostitute. It is very difficult for them to just change overnight," one viewer, Humphrey Banda, said.

However, another, Prisca Chisenga, expressed a contrary view.

"It is not fair to judge them by their past," she said.

When reality television was first introduced in Zambia more than five years ago, there was outrage from clergymen who said it would corrupt moral values.

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