Kenyan sex workers state their concerns as increasing murders targeting them becomes alarming. Kenya Sex Workers Alliance and Africa Sex Workers Alliance officials revealed that five to ten sex workers lose their lives every month.
They spoke in Nairobi during the launch of the first Global Report on Sex Workers Rights Defenders at Risk, which attributes the violence and harassment meted on them in the course of their work, as the major cause of the deaths.
Chairperson of Africa Sex Workers Alliance Grace Kamau, termed the situation unacceptable.
“Every month, we are losing between five and ten sex workers in the country through mysterious deaths, which is unacceptable. We appeal to people to respect sex workers and the business they do,” she said.
The report by Front Line Defenders, an organisation that protects human rights defenders at risk, surveyed 300 sex workers and sex worker rights defenders in Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and El Salvador.
It focused on the risks, threats and protection needs of the visible advocates for their rights. The chairperson of the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance, Caroline Njoroge, called on the government to create an enabling environment for the sex workers. She faulted the Nairobi County by-laws, which she termed as discriminatory.
“We are unhappy with the treatment sex workers are getting. They are human beings who have rights too that should be respected,” she said.
She observed that there are many innocent sex workers in prison due to their sex workers’ rights advocacy in their respective countries. The officials said Covid-19 had hit their business hard since most entertainment joints either close early now due to curfew rules, or were shut down completely.
They said they are pushing the government to decriminalise their job and ensure their rights are upheld. Dotty Ogutu an official at the Front Line Defender decried the harassment of those pushing for sex workers’ rights.
“Being a human rights defender and a sex worker can be dangerous. You are targeted by members of the public and security officers. There is a lot criminalisation of the sex work; my wish is that people would just respect our job,” said Ms Ogutu.
She added that the environment in which sex workers operate continue to deteriorate, especially in Africa. “We have received information that in DRC-Congo, many sex workers and their rights crusaders move from one city to the next to hide from attacks by members of the public and law enforces,” she said.
She called on police officers in Kenya and county askaris to be fair and follow due process whenever they arrest sex workers. Erin Kilbride, the research and visibility coordinator at the Front Line Defenders observed that international human rights standards should always be applied when handling sex workers.