I work with commercial sex workers, providing support and advocating for their rights with the organisation Women’s Organization Networking for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA). It is not easy work to do in Uganda. Women sex workers face violent discrimination from society. People label them “bad women” and ask why they have no so-called “morals”. Yet who asks the same questions about their clients, some of whom are married men and well-known public figures? It is an unfair double-standard.
People think it is acceptable to abuse, exploit and commit violence against sex workers, as if they are not human beings! Violence is one of the biggest issues facing sex workers and sadly, often from the police. I am not saying all police are bad; some are kind and protect sex workers. However there are those who hurt, rape and beat sex workers and take their money. I have seen so many of the sex workers that I know raped and then told “oh, you are a whore, whores cannot be raped, you are asking for it!” The world imposes a label on sex workers as being “immoral”, “dirty” and “unworthy”. And sadly some sex workers start to believe these labels and end up hating themselves the same way some people in our society hate sex workers. Some sex workers stop caring about themselves and their health, but many others refuse to accept societies prejudices. Why must women sex workers, or in fact any woman, be reduced to a stereotype, a fantasy, an object of somebody’s hate?
I am a feminist because I believe that all women and girls have a right to respect, to health, to freedom from violence and to equality. This includes women who are sex workers. I also support the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. Ugandans who are sexual minorities are still Ugandans. They are human beings and deserve respect, love and support like any other Ugandan.
With other sex worker advocates, I have sensitized the public in Uganda through the media and by networking with other organizations. There are also men who are sex workers, and women and men are working together to challenge the discrimination that sex workers face.
It is a hard battle, but I refuse to be deterred. I remain inspired by the strong feminist women in Uganda, including Solome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe, Syliva Tamale and Miria Matemebe, who have fought for women’s rights and for equality in Uganda, and who continue to do so despite discrimination in the media and even death threats. I also love children and try to make a difference in their lives.