Although prostitution is illegal in Uganda, Wakiso Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Ian Kyeyune has said sex workers in Nansana Municipality, Wakiso District, should be licensed as one way of identifying them and knowing their areas of operation.
Mr Kyeyune’s proposal is based on the recent rampant cold blood killing of young women in the area.
He attributed the killings of some of the young women suspected to be sex workers to their behaviour of duping their male clients who later kill them in revenge.
But the Nansana Municipality mayor, Ms Regina Bakitte, is opposed to the proposal to licence sex workers.
The mayor argues that licensing the activity would indirectly encourage promiscuity among young women since prostitution is against the law of the land and cultural norms.
“We’re making efforts to lure those girls out of prostitution because it is against the law and cultural norms. How can we issue them with operational licences?” Ms Bakitte wondered.
She added: “This is a security crisis which requires police to have joint operations with other security organs to save the so called sex workers’ lives, but not issuing them with licences.”
The RDC argues that when the women engage in commercial sex after they have been registered and closely monitored, it would save the situation.
“If it is true that they (prostitutes) are doing business, let the municipality issue them with licences and get a gazetted area where they can operate from,” Mr Kyeyune observed during a security meeting with bar operators, police and local leaders in Nansana Municipality recently.
“One time, sex workers came to my office and when I asked them why they keep disturbing our men on the streets of Nansana, they told me that they offer services to Ugandans,” he added.
In the past couple of months, at least 12 bodies of young women, all in their 20s, have been recovered at Kibulooka and Masitoowa zones in Nansana Municipality, Wakiso District.
Preliminary police investigations revealed that the manner in which the victims met their death had a striking resemblance and they could have been sexually abused before they were killed.
In the past one month, members of the district security committee have conducted numerous meetings with bar operators in Nansana to devise means of improving security within and around their premises, which are alleged to harbour wrong people at night, who later kill young women after sexually assaulting them.
During one of the meetings with bar operators recently, Mr Frank Mwesigwa, the Kampala Metropolitan police commander, said although engaging in prostitution is illegal, police have a duty to protect sex workers like other Ugandans.
“Such meetings are a result of the increased killings in the area of Nansana targeting young girls whom they say are prostitutes, but still we have the constitutional mandate to protect them too,” he said.
Wakiso District police commander Justus Tashobya said their preliminary investigations into the current spate of murders in the area have revealed that most of the victims are sex workers.
“From May 28 up to date, we have been investigating these murders and we have realised that most of the ladies who are being killed are sex workers from areas of Nansana, Namungoona, Kasubi, Nakulabye, among other areas,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
He added that seven suspects had been arrested at first, but six of them were released on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions and one was taken to court and remanded to Kigo prison.
“But the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, advised us to re-arrest them to help us in our investigations and about three of them are in our custody, while the other three are still on the run,” he added.
Mr Tashobya said on July 4, police raided places where sex workers ply their trade in Nansana and arrested more seven suspects. “Six were taken to Nalufenya Police Detention Centre for more interrogations,” he revealed.
In the alternative, Mr Kyeyune suggested that if Nansana Municipal Council authorities cannot make a by-law authorising sex workers to operate in an area, then bar operators should allow them operate freely inside their bars instead of them standing outside, a scenario he said puts their lives in danger.
“If they are prostitutes as they say and they operate outside bars, then we need to strengthen security outside bars to reduce the rampant killing of girls which has caused tension in the district,” the RDC suggested.
According to Mr Nsereko Wakayima , the Nansana Municipality MP, the recurrent killings in the area cannot single-handedly be contained by police and local leaders and urged residents to be vigilant.
“In just two months, we have lost more than 10 young women, who were killed after being raped. This unprecedented surge in recorded incidents of killing young girls could be a result of increased drug abuse among the youth in the area, which police have to fight head-on,” he said.
Last week, Gen Kayihura visited the area and promised that police would soon crackdown the criminals.
“One of the strategies we are employing is to revive the Mayumba Kumi (Ten Cell system) to help strengthen neighbourhood watch and I am hopeful this will register some success in our surveillance system,” he said.