Nairobi County Assembly Bans Sex Work in the City

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Africa Regional Correspondent

A member of County Assembly for a ward in Nairobi has put forward a motion prohibiting commercial sex in the city, which was passed by a vote on Friday 1st December.

The motion was moved by the Member of County Assembly for Woodley Kenyatta Golf Course ward, Mwangi Njihia, who argued that sex trade in the capital has become an “open air business without consequences” and that the city needs to nip the vice in the bud. Members of County Assembly claimed that the practice was being normalised with high end homes and restaurants in Nairobi having been turned into brothels. The MCA also raised concerns about the rising number of the sex workers in Nairobi.

Members urged Governor Mike Sonko to “move with speed and robustly enforce the provisions of the law to deter commercial sex in the county.” Nominated MCA Mellab Atema seconded the motion and asked the County Assembly to “save Nairobi youth from the vice and diseases that come with sex work”. The Bill has been met with anger from the sex worker community and various other groups, who says the move is illegal and unworkable.

 The penal code now criminalises aspects of prostitution, stating that: “Every male person who knowingly lives on the earnings of prostitution or in any public place persistently solicits or importunes for immoral purposes, is guilty of a misdemeanour.”.

It also creates a felony charge for women who “live wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution” and for those who are proven to “exercise control or influence over the movements of a prostitute”. It will no longer be legal to sell sex in Nairobi, whether on the streets or in brothels.

Sex workers in the country argue that this move to ban sex work violates the rights of sex workers. The ban will fuel stigma and violence against sex workers, and as long as sex workers feel discriminated against and denied basic human rights such as protection by the police, they will not be able to easily access to quality health care services. There will be no progress in HIV prevention and the Bill erodes the gains and efforts made in fight against HIV and AIDS.

 “Sex work is work and provided those involved are consenting adults, sex workers’ rights should not be violated on the basis of their work. Sex workers have rights just like any other person. It is unacceptable for Nairobi County Assembly to pass a motion prohibiting sex work in the Capital City” a Kenyan sex worker said about the ban.

Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga has challenged members of Nairobi County, and come out in defence of sex workers. She criticised members of Nairobi County Assembly over the motion outlawing sex work in Nairobi, and her sentiments were also echoed by a Kenyan atheist society and various human rights activists. The Senator has termed the move impulsive and unfair to the sex workers, and challenged the MCAs to provide alternative sources of livelihood for the sex workers before condemning them. “I strongly oppose the move and demand that commercial sex workers be given audience so that a proper solution is found.” Senator Omanga asked the leaders to critically look at the issue first, and demanded that sex workers be given audience so that a proper solution is found.

Atheists in Kenya (AIK) have also echoed the Senator’s words and condemned the move to outlaw sex work. In a statement they said, ‘’ We are utterly shocked and dismayed by the passing of a motion by the Nairobi County Assembly on Friday 1st December, 2017 purporting to prohibit commercial sex work in Nairobi County. The passing of this law is unconstitutional, illegal, untenable and retrogressive. We are asking the Nairobi County Assembly to repeal this law within 14 days. 

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