Protests following murder of a sex worker in Kisii

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Africa Regional Correspondent

Sex workers took to the streets in Kisii, Kenya, demanding action against the killers of their colleague Jescah, known as Msupa Brown. Jescah was reportedly gang-raped before being brutally murdered in December last year. The sex workers, who came from various parts of the country, demonstrated to stand in solidarity with local sex workers following the heinous killings in Kisii.

Brown was murdered at Nyanchwa Estate in the outskirts of Kisii town. Her colleagues said they last saw her being picked up by a client and driving away, and the following day her body was found by the roadside. ‘‘There is an increase in attacks on sex workers. At least four other women have been killed recently,’’ said Ms Phillis Ogendi, a sex worker representative from Kisii County. Joyce Odhiambo, a representative from Nairobi, confirmed this was the fourth murder to be reported in the area.

Addressing the press during the demonstration, Phillis said, ‘‘We categorically condemn the killings of [sex workers] and urge for quick probe into the wanton murder of Ms. Jescah’’. She said the more-than 1,200 sex workers in the town are now worried about their security. Phillis accused officers of dragging their feet in investigations.

Ogendi urged the police to move with speed and bring to book those behind Brown’s killing saying that their rights must be protected. The group said they would hold more protests if no action is taken against the killers, threatening to disrupt businesses if police failed to apprehend those responsible.

“Let this discrimination stop, otherwise we will get killed as the government watches,” said Phillis. The sex workers said justice has been denied to their colleagues, just because they are sex workers. They asked that the police assure them of their security while they work, as sex workers deserve respect of their full human rights just as other Kenyans do.

Odhiambo also challenged the perception that sex workers disproportionately contribute to HIV prevalence, and further explained that sex workers pay taxes on their income. “Some of us have families we take care by engaging in this business [and] our lives and rights must be protected,” she said.

A Nyanchwa resident, Mr James Obiri, urged the county to develop the area where the killings often take place. He said many more unsuspecting women may have escaped death in the area. "The solution lies in developing this area so that we minimise places where such heinous incidents take place," said Mr Obiri.

The sex workers marched through Kisii Town streets calling for justice, and later the sex workers converged in the Nyanchwa’s Nubia area, where another colleague was killed, for a memorial.  

So far nobody has been arrested in connection with the killings.