Today 2nd June UNESO joins the world to commemorate the International Sex Workers’ Day under the NSWP global theme “Access to Justice”.
This day is one of the marked and recognized days on the global calendar of the sex worker movement that speaks to the unfair treatment sex workers face in the justice system and amplifies the voices of the global sex worker movement and demand for equal access to justice.
Access to justice is enshrined in international laws such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the right to equal protection, due process, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and torture.
In Uganda, the criminalization of sex work regulates sex workers’ access to justice where they are denied justice both as victims of crime and when charged with crimes.
In most cases, the law enforcement officers often dismiss and give less attention to reported cases from sex workers on crimes against them. Their testimonies are of less value than those of their perpetrators.
In the last couple of years, the sex worker movement has documented rampant violations committed against sex workers notwithstanding murder cases that have been on an increase but no justice has ever prevailed. The failure to grant all forms of justice to sex workers has given perpetrators more power to continue violating sex workers since no action will be cautioned against them.
Many sex workers face intersecting forms of criminalization and discrimination that impact their access to justice on grounds of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, social class, HIV status, country of origin, and/or migration status. Fear of being arrested or charged is a major barrier to sex workers’ reporting crimes against them to the police.
As the Uganda Network of sex worker-led organizations, we recommend,
- Review and Repeal all the laws that criminalize sex work to have sex workers recognized as work and decriminalized. This will definitely help to end all forms of violations committed against sex workers.
- The government of Uganda and implementing partners should invest more in interventions that strengthen mechanisms for preventing and protecting against human rights violations to all without discrimination.
- Sex worker organizations and other Civil society organizations (CSOs) should continue to create human rights awareness for sex workers so as to empower them to be able to demand their own human rights.