Nairobi CBD Assembly Committee in Regressive Ploy to Move Sex Workers out of City Centre

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Being a sex worker in Africa is becoming even more difficult with restrictive laws being passed in a number of countries. Various countries have started to take deliberate actions to restrict the human rights of sex workers by imposing legislation or by-laws that ban sex workers  from working.  In several countries, including the DRC, Cameroon, and Kenya sex work is not illegal but most activities surrounding sex work such as managing a brothel or soliciting are.

Early June, the Assembly Committee of the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) passed a motion prohibiting sex work in the business center of Nairobi.

A representative of the Kibra ward, Jane Muasya presented a motion to the Assembly to compel the county government to drive sex workers out of the business districts and the city centre of Nairobi

Two different views on sex work emerged  during discussions at the district Assembly Commitee meeting where the motion was debated ; one view saught to improve the pride of Nairobi and so demanded that sex workers be moved out of the city centre which is a rather shameful way of going about trying to restore pride, while the second view was supposedly more sympathetic to the needs of sex workers and recognised sex work and proposing that a premises be built for sex workers to work from or the creation of a tolerance zone – but outside the city.

Sex workers note that there is no section in the Kenyan the Criminal Code Articles 153 and 154 of the Penal Code  which prohibits sex work, and one has to ask the question, how can we treat sex workers in this way [proposing the banning of sex work in an area in order to restore that area’s pride] if there has been no infringement of the law? Answering this question requires a lot of deep thought, especially as it confronts the idea of ​​a women’s autonomy and agency both over her body and over her choice of work.

In Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, we are seeing a torrernt of actions taken by governments to restrict sex work

As Kamau Thuo, a Kenyan parliamentarian said "Sex work should not be allowed because it’s gives a bad image of NAIROBI city......".

Sex workers know that there are opportunities and possibilities to reduce hatred, stigma and discrimination. An excellent example of this possibility can be found, in Bukavu, South Kivu in the DRC. An advocacy programme run by a local sex worker-led group incollaboration with the police has led to some very promising results.  Participants in this advocacy programme reccommend that organisations and sex worker groups working to promote the human and labour rights of sex workers, work together to ensure better outcomes for the sex worker community.