International sex workers’ rights day isn’t just about securing the rights of sex workers it’s about securing human rights. Sex workers’ rights are not optional.
What does this day really mean for sex workers in Kenya? In our country sex work is criminalized so you might be surprised to hear that sex workers have rights. Hell, you might think that they don’t have rights. The fact is that everyone has rights, in Kenya sex workers face a variety of human rights abuses, often as a result of the laws and policies, and practices of the very government tasked for our protection. Sex workers suffer from inappropriate and sometimes illegal policing tactics, including physical and sexual violence, extortion, and false arrest.
Sex workers are often afraid to report crimes committed against them for fear of not been taken seriously.
”sex work is a career choice; it’s a good investment in yourself. I don’t do anything I don’t want to do. I set my hours, I set my limits, I set my prices the independence is vital to me I get paid more doing sex work than any other job I have never regretted venturing into this line of work. “Says Salma (not her name) a paralegal at BHESP. Like any other business we do have our ups and down the only difference is that if I want to open a shop or any other service, I can employ a load of employees you can’t do this with this job.
‘’Non-governmental organizations like BHESP have really come through for us because they provide us with health care services that we would normally get stigmatized for at local hospitals .they provide condoms for us and give us platforms for us to speak out on the challenges we face in our area of business without any judgments. We started businesses to make ends meet but the money we make from our hustles cannot compare to the amount we get from sex work. I can get up to 10000 shillings a night compared to 1200 shillings I get selling my duvet that’s on a lucky day because there days you go without selling anything. We come out and speak openly because such openness might help to normalize sex work as legitimate labor ’’Adds Janet (not her real name).
Even in Kenya where sex work is illegal, Jane and Salma and all sex workers have rights that must be protected. Research shows that the criminalization of sex work is associated with violence against sex workers, decreased access to health care, and disempowerment in condom negotiation. governments should recognize and address the relationship between laws criminalizing sex work and human rights violations that are a result of these laws.