This year, 2022, the Uganda Network of Sex Worker-led Organizations and its members join the rest of the world to commemorate 3rd March the International Sex Workers’ Rights Day, under the global theme ‘LABOR’. The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) emphasizes the theme of labour rights because sex workers are often excluded from national labour laws.

In Uganda, the criminalization of sex work excludes sex workers from the national labour laws that could protect and promote their labour rights. The laws also criminalize third parties and those benefiting from the earnings of sex work, making the industry illegal in the country. 

This barrier has increased sex workers vulnerability to all forms of violations in their work places and they have been continuously targeted because they operate ‘illegally’.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Article 23 states that everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that sex workers support between five and eight other people with their earnings and also contribute to the economy development by paying taxes. Denying sex workers their labor rights is violating their fundamental human rights to work and earn a living.

Recognition of sex work as work would oblige governments to acknowledge that international and national labour treaties, laws, and policies also apply to sex work and this will create space for sex worker organisations to hold governments accountable in promoting and protecting sex workers labour rights. 

Call To Action 

  1. We call upon our legislators together with the Uganda Law Reform Commission, to review all punitive and discriminatory laws and policies that have continued to restrict sex workers from practicing their occupation and criminalize the purchase of sexual services and those benefitting from the earnings of sex work.
  2. The Government should recognize sex work as work and extend to sex workers all the legal protections and rights which all workers are entitled to. 

Decriminalization protects the right of sex workers to freely choose and practice their occupation

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