Sunday July 13 2014

Let’s have an honest debate about sex work

By Editorial

We should accept there is a new wave of sex work in our midst. This has disguised prostitution in posh places in urban centres. This corporate prostitution is peddled in massage parlours, hotels, and by escort agencies that offer ‘extra’ or ‘happy endings’ services – sex, to customers.

And our middle-class elite, tourists, and expatriate workers must be guilty of promoting this vice of ‘good time’. Worse, these elite enjoy and misuse their superior social and economic status to please their minds and bodily feelings on our vulnerable girls. This is disturbing because many of these girls are young, most of them in their teens, and 20s.

But for how long shall Ugandans look the other way from this obvious sore on our noses?
As Wonetha, an association of former prostitutes says, sex workers face both health and human rights crises. They say little is done to protect the girls’ rights. Executive Director of Arise for Christ Ministries, Pastor Solomon Male, says all leaders should rise up to this challenge. It is not enough to drum only the dangers of this corporate sex trade. As Pastor Male says, the legal and the moral caveat of the sex trade aside, the money involved is tempting and so are the health risks. The condoms used do not offer 100 per cent protection against HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted infections.

Much as prostitution is punishable by a seven-year jail term under Section 136(1) of the Penal Code Act, the trade runs unabated. Kampala Capital City Authority Spokesperson Peter Kaujju says they are not aware of massage parlours engaging in sex trade. Indeed, the police have several times raided streets, lodges and hotels to arrest suspects, but massage parlours and escort agencies go untouched. Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesperson Patrick Onyango says it is difficult to prove suspects were engaged in prostitution, leave alone question rights of two consenting adults.

This implies school dropouts, college, and university girls who work as escorts and masseuses cannot be saved from sex trade. Sadly, they have few prospects for fees, no decent jobs and no choices but to use their bodies as only option to survive.
Let us not turn a blind eye to sex work. This demands that Ugandans in a sober manner face this vice and listen to all the controversies. Young girls are subjected to violence, and sexually transmitted infections, some of them fatal. For this, let us debate with Wonetha. Let us debate whether to legalise, regulate or decriminalise and promote safe commercial sex work as the former ladies of the night propose.