Friday December 15, 2017
Home World To counter Po...

To counter Police Harassment, Uganda’s Sex Workers feel Phone is vital for their safety

The Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, has vowed to crack down on both sex workers and their clients

0
180
FILE - Women carry baskets of banana as they walk past a military personnel patrolling in Uganda's capital Kampala, February 19, 2016 Source: Reuters

When Fatia, 25, leaves her home to sell sex in the grungy hotels and hastily parked cars of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, she keeps her hand clenched around her phone.

After three years, her biggest fear is not violent clients or exposure to HIV, but harassment by Kampala’s police.

“The police start charging you. They say it (prostitution) is not allowed in the country,” Fatia, who declined to give her full name, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

Follow NewsGram on Twitter

“Some policemen even use you (for sex). They don’t pay you and then still they take you to the station.”

If arrested for prostitution, Fatia knows what to do. Call the emergency number for Lady Mermaid’s Bureau (LMB) – a sex workers’ advocacy organization – and beep once.

A representative from the bureau soon arrives at the station to gently remind the police that harassment or bribery of any citizen, even a sex worker, is illegal.

If that fails, she may invoke the name of one of Fatia’s influential clients to scare the police into releasing her.

Follow NewsGram on Facebook

Gentle persuasion generally works.

Ugandan police spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi denied systemic police harassment. However, he said instances of misconduct by individual officers was possible.

“The police have no policy of harassing the prostitutes on the streets,” Kaweesi said.

“Those who are victims should report to our professional standards unit … Absolutely nobody will punish them. We will listen to their complaints and follow it up.”

VULNERABLE

In Uganda, sex work is illegal and highly stigmatized, making women like Fatia vulnerable to unlawful arrest, rape, bribery, beating and murder, rights groups say.

The Indigo Trust, a UK-based foundation under The Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, gave Lady Mermaid’s Bureau a grant in 2014 to help Ugandan sex workers fight abuse using technology.

It has provided around 1,000 sex workers across Uganda with information-loaded digital memory cards so they can use their phones to learn how to protect themselves against violence, HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies.

The material is available in multiple languages, and in written and video format, to maximize the number of women who can access it.

“They read them, follow them and do their work safely,” said Oliver Musoke, executive director of Lady Mermaid’s Bureau and a former sex worker.

The cards make it easier to reach larger numbers of women than through face-to-face counseling.

“Some women are not open (to meeting us),” said Musoke, who founded the organization in 2002 to improve sex workers’ access to medical, psychological and legal services and to educate them about sexual health and the law.

“They can read and take the information for themselves.”

Harassment

The criminalization of sex work in the conservative East African nation makes it difficult for those living on its margins to learn about their rights.

Fatia began selling sex hoping to save her earnings for a year and go into business, selling baby clothes.

But she continues to work the streets because she cannot earn enough to escape. Most days she gets one or two clients; some days, none.

“When you use protection, they give you very little money,” she said. “It’s not a good job at all.”

Anyone who engages in prostitution is liable to seven years in jail, according to Uganda’s 1950 Penal Code.

The Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, has vowed to crack down on both sex workers and their clients.

But it is largely poor women who are targeted.

“Harassment occurs any time because sex work is illegal,” said Daisy Nakato Namakula, a former sex worker who heads the Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA), which promotes sex workers’ rights.

WONETHA has received 85 reports of sex workers being arrested and harassed by the police since January, but says many more cases go undocumented.

Officers sometimes threaten to publish sex workers’ faces in the media and refuse to allow those with HIV/AIDS who are arrested to be brought their medication, Namakula said.

Ugandan police spokesman Kaweesi denied these allegations.

“(All) suspects have full rights of access to their relatives, access to medical attention, access to meals,” he said.

Musoke of Lady Mermaid’s Bureau, which has worked with more than 12,000 sex workers across Uganda, believes she is slowly changing Ugandans’ attitudes.

One policeman recently asked for a memory card to learn more about the situation of sex workers in the community, LMB reported.

“I have passed through that life,” Musoke said.

“I know their problems… That’s why I decided to create (Lady Mermaid’s Bureau), to let them know that they are also human.” (VOA)

Next Story

Stephen Hawking believes Technology could end Poverty and Disease, says Artificial Intelligence could be the Worst or Best things for Humanity

Hawking said everyone has a role to play in making sure that this generation and the next are fully engaged with the study of science at an early level to create “a better world for the whole human race.”

0
80
Stephen Hawking
Cosmologist Stephen Hawking delivers a video message during the inauguration of Web Summit, Europe's biggest tech conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 6, 2017. (VOA)

Lisbon, November 7, 2017 : Technology can hopefully reverse some of the harm caused to the planet by industrialization and help end disease and poverty, but artificial intelligence (AI) needs to be controlled, physicist Stephen Hawking said on Monday.

Hawking, a British cosmologist who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease aged 21, said technology could transform every aspect of life but cautioned that artificial intelligence poses new challenges.

He said artificial intelligence and robots are already threatening millions of jobs — but this new revolution could be used to help society and for the good of the world such as alleviating poverty and disease.

“The rise of AI could be the worst or the best thing that has happened for humanity,” Stephen Hawking said via telepresence at opening night of the 2017 Web Summit in Lisbon that is attended by about 60,000 people.

“We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management and prepare for its consequences well in advance.”

Hawking’s comments come during an escalating debate about the pro and cons of artificial intelligence, a term used to describe machines with a computer code that learns as it goes.

ALSO READ Humanity’s days are numbered, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will cause mass extinction, warns Stephen Hawking

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc and rocket company SpaceX, has warned that AI is a threat to humankind’s existence.

But Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, in a rare interview recently, told the WSJ Magazine that there was nothing to panic about.

Stephen Hawking said everyone has a role to play in making sure that this generation and the next are fully engaged with the study of science at an early level to create “a better world for the whole human race.”

ALSO READ Indian Origin Scientist Part of the team that Developed Nanotechnology-based Test that quickly Detects Zika Virus

“We need to take learning beyond a theoretical discussion of how AI should be, and take action to make sure we plan for how it can be,” said Stephen Hawking, who communicates via a cheek muscle linked to a sensor and computerized voice system.

“You all have the potential to push the boundaries of what is accepted, or expected, and to think big. We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting — if precarious — place to be and you are the pioneers,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

This is What Amitabh Bachchan has to Say against Women Harassment

Amitabh Bachchan speaks in support of Women.

0
22
Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan.wikimedia commons
  • Big B comments on the crime against women.

Society doesn’t like women who confront tormentors says, Amitabh Bachchan

Megastar Amitabh Bachchan rues how patriarchal mindsets still dominate most part of India, where the society has not allowed women to freely use the fundamental right of legal recourse in cases of harassment.

“Many crimes against women go unreported because women are scared to go to the police station, where they may face further harassment. Legal recourse is the fundamental right of every citizen and women have been denied that right because society does not like a woman who confronts her tormentors,” Amitabh, 75, has penned in a foreword for “Pink: The Inside Story” (HarperCollins/226 pp/Rs 299).

The book, by film historian Gautam Chintamani, chronicles the making, impact and script of “Pink”, which bagged the National Award for Best Film on Social Issues for provoking discussions on crimes against women.

Amitabh’s statement fits in a pertinent way as far as the current scenario in the global entertainment industry is concerned.

After multiple women stood up and raised their voice against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein for sexual harassment and rape, more women have spoken out about their experiences with filmmaker James Toback and even actors Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman.

“Women today are more educated and financially more secure; they are ambitious and assertive; and yet, there seems to be no end to the atrocities perpetrated against women. You just have to pick up the newspaper every morning to know this,” Amitabh Bachchan writes.

He says he himself chose to feature in a film like “Pink” (2016) — which highlighted how “no means no” — because “as an older member of the industry, I felt there needed to be a change in my engagement with my profession”.

In the film, he essays Deepak Sehgal, a lawyer who fights in favor of three girls and makes valid arguments to highlight the issue of consent and a woman’s right to say no.

Big B says in the book that his relationship with the three girls reminds him of his own bond with his granddaughters.

“It’s important to me that they grow up in a society that offers them the necessary protections and privileges.”(IANS)

Next Story

Alyssa Milano’s Hashtag ‘Me Too’ Goes Viral on Twitter and Facebook

0
23
Alyssa Milano
Alyssa Milano during a concert. Wikimedia

American actress Alyssa Milano’s request from the social media has resulted in millions of tweets as she asked women to share their personal experience with harassment and sexual assault with ‘me too’ hashtag, which culminated into more than 6 million users talking about it on Twitter and Facebook.

Alyssa Milano's 'me too' hashtag goes viral
Milano’s hashtag “me too” goes viral.

All of this comes in the backdrop of new allegations against popular Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein has been accused by a dozen women of sexually harassing them, even raping them.  Since these allegations have come to the fore, people all across the world are sharing their own personal experience with harassment on Twitter and Facebook. Some of the tweets are shared even by men who have been on the receiving end of indecent behavior.

‘Me too’ hashtag is exposing a very common yet abhorrent happening in the world. Alyssa stated that her friend suggested her the idea of ‘me too’ social media campaign. She tweeted that if women use the ‘me too’ hashtag for sharing their own experiences with sexual assault, it would help the world to figure out how grave the situation is. Famous female celebrities like Anna Paquin, Debra Messing, Sophia Bush, Brooke Smith, etc. have used the hashtag ‘me too’.