International Day to End Violence Against sex workers

10th of December 2020 was a normal day for Jacqueline Waithera (not her real name) as she went about her routine of seeking clientele at her usual hot spot on the street of Nairobi, in the Kenyan capital.

Jacqueline is a sex worker and on a good day she can get up to 10 men who part with any amount from KSH 500 to even KSH 5000 shillings depending on the financial capability of the client.

Unknown to Jacqueline, this fateful day was not going to be productive to her and some of her colleagues, she was arrested and thrown into a waiting police van. At this point she knew very well that the little she had already earned would go into paying hefty fines.

She pleaded for mercy from the arresting officers but none would hear her, instead the law enforcers would physically and sexually harass the sex workers in the van and later be confined at the police cells.

For them to be released, they would have to part with at least KSH 5000 or be taken to court the following morning.

Sex work is illegal in Kenya and therefore a good breeding ground for law enforcers to take advantage of the situation to harass the sex workers.

It is not the first time that this has happened to Jacqueline and her colleagues, but rather a continuous cycle that is instigated against sex workers who are trying to earn a living from the streets.

And so today 17th December, as the world marks the international day to end violence against sex workers, Jacqueline and her colleagues return to the Central Police Station where they were confined with a noble cause. They are cleaning the police station and the cells where they were confined.

Their aim is to show the society that despite trying to earn a living through a profession that has not been legalized in Kenya; they also have basic righst that need to be respected.

“When we are here cleaning the cells and chatting with the cops, so much is gained, they see us in a different light, there is more understanding from us too and I think this relationship will help us in the streets” conludes Jacqueline.

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