By Faith Nyasuguta
Sex workers in Africa have raised alarm on the ballooning murders targeting them.
Data from the Africa Sex Workers Alliance officials in collaboration with the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance shows that in Kenya alone, five to ten sex workers are killed monthly. The numbers are higher in other African nations.
The sex workers on Tuesday spoke in Nairobi during the launch of the maiden Global Report on Sex Workers Rights Defenders at Risk, which showed that violence and harassment dispensed on them as they go about their work, is the major cause of their deaths.
The head of Africa Sex Workers Alliance Grace Kamau, indicated that the situation is 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 recent study by Front Line Defenders, an organization shielding human rights defenders at risk, examined 300 sex workers and sex worker rights defenders in Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and El Salvador.
It paid attention to the risks, threats and protection needs of the visible advocates for the sex workers’ rights.
Caroline Njoroge, the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance called on African governments to create a conducive environment for sex workers while faulting some of the imposed laws 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 made an observation that many innocent sex workers are currently behind bars for advocating for sex workers’ rights in their countries.
The alliance officials claimed that Covid-19 had hit their business hard as most entertainment joints now close early or were completely shut down. They now want all governments to decriminalize their work and ensure their rights are upheld.
An official at the Front Line Defender, Dotty Ogutu condemned the torment of those advocating for the rights of sex workers.
“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 of criminalization of sex work; my wish is that people would just respect our job,” Ogutu said.
Adding, she said the environmental status in which sex workers operate is deteriorating, particularly 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.
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.