Sex workers’ conference moved from Uganda to Kenya

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1 Mar

In March 2008, women’s rights groups and development organisations joined forces to hold one of the first sex workers’ rights conferences on the African continent. The conference brought 35 activists and experts from allied groups to Kenya to discuss an evidence-based approach to sex workers’ health and human rights.

The conference was originally scheduled to occur in Uganda, where sex work is illegal, but was transferred to Kenya after the Ugandan government banned the conference, stating that the sex workers, women’s rights advocates, and development workers involved in the conference planning were co-conspirators attempting to “commit a criminal offense”. The Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, stated that, “We don’t take any delight at all in the idea that prostitutes are coming together to devise ways of spreading their vice.”

The meeting was organised by Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA) and the Open Society Institute's Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP). They argued that East African governments have failed to protect sex workers’ human rights by ignoring rampant sex worker abuse. They further maintained that government toleration of discrimination and abuse of sex workers increases sex workers’ vulnerability by driving them underground and out of the reach of health, social, and justice services.

“It’s time for dialogue and action on the violation of sex workers’ rights,” proclaimed Solome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe, the Executive Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika.

Sex Work and Human Rights in Africa (journal article):

Fordham International Law Journal, Volume 33, Issue 4, Article 2 (2011)
By Chi Mgbako and Laura A. Smithy


Uganda prostitute workshop banned:
25 March 2008
By BBC News

Groups Meet to Improve Access to Health and Human Rights for East African Sex Workers: 
31 March 2008
By Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa