On 2nd June 2017 Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme {BHESP} held an event to celebrate International Sex Workers Day at BHESP Kasarani offices.

More than 100 sex workers attended the event to honor sex workers and recognize their often exploited working conditions.

“As we celebrate International Sex Workers Day lets channel our energies towards ending stigma and discrimination surrounding sex work,” said BHESP Executive Director Peninah Mwangi.

Mwangi added that if sex workers are to enjoy fair and just working conditions, sex work needs to be fully decriminalized.

“We want laws in Kenya to be refocused on making sex workers lives safer and improving the relationship they have with the law enforcers,” she held.

Echoing Mwangi’s sentiments, Kenya Sex Workers Alliance national coordinator Phelister Abdalla said the event is very important as it’s celebrated globally and appreciated sex workers for coming out openly calling for the decriminalization of sex work.

“With decriminalization, we can live free from HIV and violence just like any other citizens of the country,’’ she said.

Abdalla added that sex workers deserve a day to celebrate the people they have lost and those who have faced violence.

“It’s a day to remember our fellow community members. A day to know that we deserve happiness,’’ she said.

“I am very excited to attend this event and hopeful we will have much more to celebrate sex workers. We are happy that we are recognized and appreciated,” said Esther 21-year-old sex worker operating in Nairobi.

According to Nancy, a sex worker, the event provided a good platform to advocate for the rights of sex workers and highlight the hazardous and abusive conditions sex workers face in their work.

On his part Stanley Ngara, African king of condom, called on the sex workers to consistently use a condom as it’s very key in HIV prevention.

“We have another strategy called Pre Exposure Prophylaxis
{PrEP} and I urge you guys to enroll for the medication to keep HIV away,” Ngara said.

The event commemorates the occupation of Église Saint-Nizier in Lyon by more than a hundred sex workers on 2 June 1975 to draw attention to their inhumane working conditions.

In the 1970s, French police kept sex workers under increasing pressure. The police reprisals forced sex workers to work increasingly in secret. As a result, protection of sex workers decreased and led to more violence against them.

After two murders and the unwillingness of the government to improve the situation, sex workers in Lyon occupied the Saint-Nizier church in rue de Brest and went on strike.

The striking workers sang political chants and demanded decent working conditions and an end to stigma.

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