Women activists call for an end to violence against sex workers in Uganda

Women activists call for an end to violence against sex workers in Uganda

By Andrew Cohen Amvesi    

ARUA. Women activists have called for an end to violence against sex workers in Uganda.

The call was made during the commemoration of the international day to end violence against sex workers in Arua city on Sunday.

During the function, Stella Nasuna, one of the women activists said the day was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers and to honor those who have experienced violence and lost lives in the course of the year.

“As women, to us, there is no woman who is less than the other because we feel like as women, we are all equal and as humans, we are all equal. I want to say that currently in Uganda, we do have laws that seek to promote and protect human rights for all people but the most marginalized population of sex workers are female,” Nasuna said.

One of the women activists speaking during the function in Arua city on Sunday

“All those laws that are put in place don’t help sex workers at all because they are still criminalized by law and the perpetrators use these laws to come and violate the rights of sex workers. In most cases, most of the violations are around discrimination and stigma, habitual arrests and also sexual harassment or physical harassment in general,” Nasuna added.

She said in Arua, in the past year, they received reports on a number of violations against sex workers.

“The reports were so alarming that we came on ground to say that we need the community and the State to put an end to all forms of violations against sex workers not only in Arua but in the entire nation, Uganda. So, as we call on this day, to us in summary, is around the government coming on board to put protective base that does not only marginalize others but protect us citizens in general like laws that promote hums rights in general but also to decriminalize sex work,” Nasuna remarked.

She said they believe that if the government considers to decriminalize sex work, there will be increased access to health services, reduced violation against sex workers and increase in access to justice.

“If you are criminalized, you can’t be able to access justice in any way because the criminal justice system will use the laws against you and also the perpetrators will continue using the same laws to impact violence on sex workers. So, today, we want to remember those (sex workers) we have lost due to violence and share memory about them, light up a candle and say we still stand with you in solidarity but again, still call for a common goal to put an end to violence against sex workers in Uganda,” Nasuna explained.

In his remarks, Ivan Sukuru, the Upper Bibia Cell chairperson in Arua Central Division, a cell known to be the home of sex workers in Arua city, said sex workers are human beings who deserve to be treated well.

“I’m one of the LCs who are hosting sex workers. What I know is sex workers are human beings; these are good people and others have gone to school. When you go deep to understand why they have come out of their homes, you will realize that their fathers didn’t pay their school fees while others left home due to domestic violence,” Sukuru said.

He urged the public to consider treating sex workers as people who are part of the community. Sukuru also asked the government to protect sex workers from any form of violation.

According to the UNESO Human Rights Violation report 2022 – 2023 that provides a record of verified human rights violations perpetrated against sex workers, the right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment and life are the most violated human rights among sex workers, for example, physical assault, sexual assault and murder.

The rational behind the high number of cases of violation of these rights is attributed to the fact that sex work is criminalized and as a result, the notion that sex workers, being members of the criminalized community, are unworthy of the same dignity and respect as other members of the society.

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