KAMPALA– Police officers are the main perpetrators of heinous human rights violations in the country on sex workers, a new report has revealed.
The report titled, “Legal regulation of sex work in Uganda; Exploring the current trends and the impact on the human rights of sex workers,” released in December, documents 597 cases involving sex workers and says police was responsible for 597 cases [94.8%].
The report adds further that the police institution was behind massive human rights abuses that included illegal arrests, detention without trial, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, corruption and sexual violence of the sex workers in Uganda.
The report also names Ethics and Integrity minister Simon Lokodo among the top State actors who have also abused the rights of sex workers in the country.
“Uganda Police Force have been the main perpetrators of bodily integrity violations of human rights on sex workers in Uganda and most of the violated right was a right to liberty with 471 violations [79%],” the report reads in part.
The report was released by Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum [HRAPF] at Imperial Royale Hotel recently. The sex workers accused the Police of forcing them into sex when conducting operations to arrest them.
While presenting the findings, Joanine Nanyange, the assistant executive director at HRAPF, said criminalizing sex work under sections 138 and 139 of the Penal code Act places sex workers in a precarious position with the law which makes them susceptible to various forms of human rights violations that are occasionally.
“It is clear from the report that while these provisions are inoperative, they render sex workers a criminalized community that is left at the mercy of the law enforcement officers and community members who are strongly prejudiced against them,” Nanyange said.
But the Assistant Superintendent of Police in charge of community policing, Anatoli Muleterwa said; “I do not think a dedicated police officer can behave that way, no that is why it is key for us to take on individual policemen.”
He asked commercial sex workers who claim they were raped by policemen during operations to report the cases to police stations.
“And even those who asked for bribes from you, report these because no policeman is above the law so if they are found guilty, then we shall take them to court,” he added.
He said they are implementers of the law and that as long as the laws remain what they are today in the constitution and penal code, they will continue playing their role of getting rid of crime in society.
While presenting another report entitled ‘Uganda report of violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity 2017’ the executive director HRAPF Adrian Jjuuko said the policy regime in Uganda also largely accentuates the inequality between LGBT persons and other people.
“Besides police arresting LGBT persons illegally and charging them with rogue and vagabond or idleness and disorderly is an abuse of human rights. And inequality is the biggest driver of violations faced by LGBT persons and that the social exclusion endured by LGBT persons is in itself a violation of fundamental rights to diginity,” Jjuuko said.
The report recommends training of police officers on the rights of sex workers, availability of equal protection of the law to sex workers and ensure that the rights violations against sex workers are properly investigated.
The report further calls upon legislators to enact laws that are not discriminatory to persons in sex work, repeal laws that are obsolete which fuel violence, repeal sections 167 and 168 of the penal code Act on idle and disorderly and not to adopt to the provisions further criminalizing sex work in the sexual offences bill.
While lauching the report, Joel Cox Ojuko, a Commissioner of Equal opportunities Commission, said the reports present a true picture of how society treats the marginalized groups and that as a ministry they would use the reports to find remedy to the injustice meted on the sex workers.
“There must be equal opportunities to access justice; we need to respect human rights and as a commission, we are prepared to answer any questions that touch on discrimination and marginalization as an end to the issues in the report,” Ojuko, who represented the Equal opportunities chairperson Sylvia Muwebwa Ntambi, said.