Personal testimonies of rights violations experienced by sex workers in Kenya

Kenyan sex workers continue to suffer human rights violations despite a robust constitutional framework that includes a comprehensive Bill of Rights guaranteeing rights for all, a report has said.

The report titled “Speaking out! Personal testimonies of rights violations experienced by sex workers in Kenya” said sex workers living with HIV experienced numerous human rights violations when accessing health services, particularly those services relating to HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

“These included Violations around HIV diagnosis, breach of privacy and confidentiality largely resulting from unlawful disclosure of HIV status by healthcare workers, discrimination in healthcare settings and poor quality healthcare provision and lack of accessible and acceptable health services,” the 36-page report exposed.

Besides violations in health services, the report demonstrated how sex workers’ vulnerability to and burden of HIV is further heightened by human rights violations suffered at the hands of persons in authority, specifically law enforcement officers including City Council askaris, police and prison officers.

The report said the violations included exploitation and harassment including arbitrary arrests, limited access to justice in cases of rape, inhumane and degrading treatment while in police custody including breach of privacy and denial of and limited access to treatment while in police custody and prison.

On this note, the report recommended that Laws, policies, and practices that negatively impact on sex workers’ health and human rights, through criminalization or other means, must be reformed.

“These include national laws and/or subsidiary legislation based on the Kenyan Penal Code, the Sexual Offences Act and county laws regularizing morality and related conduct. It is essential that laws to protect human rights are not undermined by practices and policies,” the report advised.

The report is a result of community-led research conducted by the National Empowerment Network for Persons Living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK) in collaboration with Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) and Kenya Sex Workers Alliance (KESWA).

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