KAMPALA – Whereas Uganda has ratified a wide range of international and regional human rights treaties, it remains one of the countries in the World where sex workers have been denied these human rights, the Alliance of Women advocating for Change has said.
AWAC says in Uganda sex workers face higher levels of violence and discrimination that are barriers to access to health & justice across the country.
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.
Ms Christine Kaleeba on behalf of UWAC said during the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, disconnect, disrupted routines and diminished services have greatly impacted the lives and mental well-being of Female Sex Workers without anybody raising a finger.
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual but I want to request the government to give sex workers their full rights because they are human beings like any other,” said Ms Kaleeba.
“As a signatory to the various of international and regional human rights treaties on human rights, the government has a responsibility to assess how best to prevent human rights violations against anyone. It is right and fitting that government should look at one of the most disadvantaged groups of people in Uganda, often forced to live outside the law and denied their most basic human rights: sex workers,” added Ms Kaleeba who was 15 December addressing people at the launch of Female Sex Workers’ Feminist Advocacy Agenda.
According Ms Kaleeba, sex workers—female, male and transgender adults who have consensual sex in exchange for money or goods, either regularly or occasionally—are among the populations that are being left behind in the HIV response. HIV prevalence among sex workers.
Established in 2015 by female sex workers (FSWs), AWAC is an umbrella network of grass root female sex worker led organisations to advance health rights, human rights, socio-economic rights & social protection for FSWs and other marginalized women and girls including their children in Uganda.
She explained that sex workers have faced and continue to face cultural, social, legal and linguistic obstacles to accessing services and information which further compound their vulnerability and exposure to violence and exploitation.
Dr Jonathan Wangisi, the former project director for operational research at TASO (The Aids Support Organisation) Eastern says despite the progress made towards HIV/Aids fight, researchers still have limited understanding of the exact mechanisms of preventing further spread of HIV/Aids amongst the key populations like prostitutes.
He explained that a recent research by BMC Public Health published in June 2017 estimated that female sex workers (FSWs) are 13.5 times more likely to be HIV infected than other women.
The BMC Public Health [BioMed Central] is a United Kingdom-based, for-profit scientific open access publisher that produces scientific journals.
He revealed that FSWs in Uganda are at an extremely high risk for HIV infection and violence.
“And to achieve the laudable and ambitious goal of zero new infections, sex workers as a key population need to be included in all aspects of HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs without being discriminated as a right to health,” said Dr Wangisi.
Ms Kaleeba said to be clear, AWAC firmly believes that those who exploit or abuse sex workers must be criminalized but that the reality is laws which criminalize ‘brothel-keeping’ and ‘promotion’ often lead to sex workers being arrested and prosecuted themselves.
“And our appeal is that FSWs be given full rights to enable them enjoy everything enjoyed by other Ugandans as human beings,” said Ms Kaleeba.
She revealed that even though sex work is at least partially legal in Uganda, the law rarely protects sex workers and that there is generally a severe lack of legislation and policies protecting sex workers who may be at risk of violence from both state and non-state actors such as law enforcement, partners, family members and their clients.
“For example, a sex worker who is raped will generally have little hope of bringing charges against their attacker. This lack of protection leaves sex workers open to abuse, violence and rape, creating an environment,” said Ms Kaleeba.