Allow us to do business during the day, commercial sex workers to gov’t


Commercial sex workers in Nairobi have urged both national and county governments to de-criminalize the practice and approve the business which they say for a long time has been criminalized and judged harshly by authorities.

Nairobi sex workers on Thursday held peaceful demonstrations at Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner in a bid to celebrate the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers.

According to Grace Kamau, who has been a commercial sex worker for 10 years, time has come for the government to de-criminalize the practice and allow the business to go on during the day; in addition to the traditional night leniency.

“I am not asking the government to openly endorse prostitution, but to at least repeal sections of the law which are very punitive to the practice. I will appreciate if we’re allowed to engage in the business openly during the day,” she said.

“For a long time, we have been discriminated upon, and now urge the government to create time, sit down with us and allow us open our hearts out to them; we are human beings,” added Ms Kamau.

Ms Kamau noted that violence against commercial sex workers is alarmingly on an upward trend and further urged authorities to provide them with security.

“I have encountered violent clients who assault me, and those who don’t want to use protection. I cannot report the case to police officers because they judge and even look down upon me the moment I identify myself as a prostitute; I even risk being put behind bars.”

These sentiments were echoed by another sex worker, Khadija (Casual Coordinator for Kenya Sex Workers), who justified their demonstrations saying: “We have gathered to celebrate the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. For the past month or two, we have witnessed many cases of Kenyan sex workers being violated, raped, killed or even subjected to forceful HIV/AIDS testing.”

“We are not inferior, and we know that is wrong. We understand what the law says, and just want to pronounce our position in society,” added Khadija.

“We are in this march with our colleagues in Kisumu, Nakuru, Mombasa and other parts of Kenya,” she stated.

We’re ready to pay taxes

The Casual Coordinator for Kenya Sex Workers further urges the government to provide a conducive business environment for the practice – and when that is accorded, they say they will pay taxes willingly.

“We are ready to pay taxes; so long as we are recognised and there’s an elaborate procedure to follow. The law should loosen and accept us; the same way it is liberal to other professions – we just need our security to be assured, and we’ll willingly contribute to the economy of this country.”

“We are not ashamed of this practice. The society should learn to live with us.”

Mary Mwangi, a commercial sex worker who has been in the industry for 15 years, says they are diligent citizens and their views should be respected just like other citizenry.

“The sex workers community are Kenyan citizens; we abide by the rules and obligations – we form part of the voters’ population. Sex work is a career like any other, and we are proud to be associated with the practice; we are not forced – we chose to be in it.”

Grace Kamau observes the constitution clearly spells out the rights of every citizen, and that they should not be treated as different.

“Our Constitution is very good; however, there are some penal codes that are very harsh on us; we wish they be merged together with the municipal bylaws to accommodate us; just the way the constitution advocates for our rights.”

According to Rose Otieno, a commercial sex worker, more players are coming on board to support the practice.

“I am glad today the sex workers have organisations which advocate for their rights. There are also hospitals which attend to them.”

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Brian Okoth
Story By Brian Okoth
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