Saturday October 20, 2018
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
//
222
FILE - Women carry baskets of banana as they walk past a military personnel patrolling in Uganda's capital Kampala, February 19, 2016 Source: Reuters
Republish
Reprint

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)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 NewsGram

Next Story

Actor Sushant Singh Rajput Denies Claims of Harassment

The #MeToo movement in India started after actress and former beauty queen Tanushree Dutta in September recalled an unsavoury episode with veteran actor Nana Patekar from the sets of "Horn OK Pleassss" in 2008

0
Sushant Singh Rajput
Sushant Singh Rajput. Flickr

Sushant Singh Rajput has been accused of sexual misconduct by his “Kizie Aur Manny” co-star Sanjana Sanghi. In his defence, the actor shared screenshots of their SMS conversation and called it a “smear campaign”.

Sushant on Friday tweeted snapshots of his conversation with Sanjana from the first day to the last day of the film’s shoot, and captioned it: “I feel sad to reveal personal information but it seems that there is no other way to state what was, in the midst of this curated and well-timed smear campaign.

“From the first till the last day of the shoot, this is what happened on the set with Sanjana.”

Sanjana has accused the 32-year-old actor of behaving inappropriately on the sets of the movie, saying he made her feel “uncomfortable” with his “overly friendly behaviour” during the shoot in Jodhpur.

On Thursday, Twitteratis pointed at Sushant’s missing blue verification tick on the micro-blogging platform following the claims.

Sushant Singh Rajput
Sushant Singh Rajput denies harassment claims.

However, Sushant on Friday clarified: “For all those deliberately using the missing of Twitter ‘blue tick’ to substantiate their false claims, allow me to tell you that it is not there since September 5. Get your facts checked before jumping to conclusions that you so eagerly want to.

The film’s director and popular casting director Mukesh Chhabra has spoken out in support of Sushant.

You May Also Like to Read About- A Complaint Registered Against Facebook’s Zuckerberg in an UP Court

“I totally stand by Sushant. No such incident happened on the sets and let’s not have a Twitter trial and make an innocent person suffer for somebody else’s ulterior motives. I had clarified this on twitter long back and I still maintain it,” Chhabra, who too has been accused by a women of sexual harassment, tweeted.

The #MeToo movement in India started after actress and former beauty queen Tanushree Dutta in September recalled an unsavoury episode with veteran actor Nana Patekar from the sets of “Horn OK Pleassss” in 2008. (IANS)