Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo is currently in the midst of a massive operation against sex workers.
The Governor launched a new police initiative, which promised to arrest individuals who wore outfits or displayed behaviour “offensive to morality”, and to ensure under 18s don’t enter bars or loiter in public places. A warning has been issued to bar owners that they may face arrest if they accept minors.
Evidence has been published of violent arrests and harassment of women throughout the city, which has been criticised by activists. The Kinshasa police chief is quoted as having said the operation “is about a group of minors who are at the base of the erosion of our customs, who prostitute themselves”. A local lawyer told a news organisation that the harassment is affecting all young women and girls: “minors are systematically harassed, no matter what they wear”.
The Congolese Alliance for Human Rights Projects of Sex Work, ACODHU-TS, member of ASWA and NSWP, denounced the arbitrary arrests of sex workers by the police in Kinshasa through the UJANA Programme. They state that more than 200 women have been arbitrarily arrested and held in Kinshasa under the new initiative, and are seeking to meet with local authorities to challenge the programme. Their statement demanded that the government decriminalise sex work and recognise sex work as work, to help the government differentiate between sex work, trafficking and the exploitation of minors.