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Advocates Urge Uganda to Decriminalize Sex Work


PHOTO — Fox News

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Women activists gathered in Kampala on Friday, March 08, 2024, to highlight the challenges faced by sex workers and advocate for the decriminalization of sex work. During a press conference held in commemoration of International Women’s Day, these activists expressed concerns over the current legal status of sex work, stating that criminalization hampers sex workers’ ability to seek justice when their rights are violated.

Organizations led by sex workers, under the coordination of the Network of Key Population Service Organizations (UNESO) in collaboration with the Ubuntu Law and Justice Centre, are spearheading efforts to amend laws to decriminalize sex work. Juliet Kanyange, a lawyer representing Ubuntu Law and Justice Centre, emphasized the importance of decriminalization in enabling sex workers to access justice effectively.

According to Kanyange, criminalization creates barriers to justice within the sex work community. By criminalizing sex work, individuals engaged in this profession face significant challenges in reporting violations of their rights. Kanyange called upon all stakeholders, including the government, to reconsider the criminalization of sex work, recognizing it as a legitimate source of livelihood.

Deborah Nakatudde, a member of UNESO, highlighted the urgency of the issue by revealing that at least eight sex workers had been brutally murdered between December 2023 and the present day. Nakatudde condemned these killings and expressed concern over the impunity with which they occur, emphasizing the failure of the Criminal Justice System to hold perpetrators accountable for femicide.

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Despite the significant role sex work plays in providing livelihoods for many women and men across Uganda, it remains unrecognized under the country’s employment and labor laws. Human rights activists have long advocated for legal reform, arguing that criminalization fosters violence and restricts access to justice. Recently, efforts were made to pass the Sexual Offences Bill, which aimed to decriminalize sex work. However, Parliament rejected these recommendations, opting to maintain prison sentences for sex workers, clients, and brothel keepers.

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