WONETHA welcomes belated release of discussion paper on adult prostitution

Press Statement WONETHA (Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy)

Please contact Kyomya Macklean on +256 774 603 754

Decriminalisation is the only option of protecting sex worker rights

Uganda is lauded world over for having made strides in advancing women’s rights as well as in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Uganda has one of the most progressive Constitutions in terms of the rights accorded to women. Uganda is also signatory to the major regional and international human and women’s rights instruments. Uganda was an early leader among African countries in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the government’s openness and willingness to address HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment, made it a success story Africa.

Sadly though, the reality is that not all women have experienced these advances in human and women’s rights and there are women who remain at the periphery in the fight against HIV/AIDS. These women are we sex workers (SW) which our constitution defines as “Prostitution”.

Under Ugandan Law, prostitution is illegal and is penalised by Criminal Law (Section 138 of the Penal Code). This exposes us or those into prostitution to risk of violent repression. Sex work is divided into sex work, transaction sex work and sex for favours. In Uganda, there are different forces that impact differently on this kind of activity ranging from; perception that sex workers “need rehabilitation”, attribution of selling sex as a culpable offence, outright state mistrust for activities concerning sex work (Saturday Vision March 22, 2008 P.5), arrests (The Monitor April 26, 2006), subjugation of women, sexual enjoyment, provision of psycho-social support, income generating activity and a form of sustenance for many since many people including relatives depend on sex workers’ earnings.

When it comes to accessing HIV/AIDS and other sexual and reproductive health services, SW are regarded as disease vectors and treated as such and because of the stigma attached to our work, it’s often hard to access appropriate services for fear of ill treatment. Many of us have faced and continue to  face violence and discrimination on a regular basis we experienced being raped, verbally, emotional and physical abuse from police, clients and community members.  There is unfair discrimination from service providers. Sex workers are not protected or defended by the law when they are exploited and abused. We demand that these violations stop immediately and decisive action is taken against perpetrators.
When our governments are campaigning for our votes they say “vote for us and we will deliver “. We have voted but our governments have not delivered. We try to raise our voices about human rights violations that we face on a daily basis, no one listens.  Once we have voted they forget us. Our government does not currently embrace nor see it as its responsibility to protect SWs against violence and other human rights abuses.

This is in direct contravention of the Constitution of Uganda and other international and regional human rights instruments that Uganda is signatory to. WONETHA a sexwork led organization   calls on our government to reorganize and protect sexworkers as full citizens of Uganda and insists that decriminalization of sexwork is the only effective means to regulate the sex industry.

We need law reform of sex work so that we have the spaces to access our rights. We demand rights and NOT rescue.


Advocacy Please contact Kyomya Macklean on +256 774 603 754 for more information.

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