As a way of raising awareness on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) issues in the coalition membership, The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL) embarked on an in-house campaign to equip her membership with knowledge on LGBTI issues and the rights of sexual minorities in Uganda.
CSCHRCL is a network of over fifty (50) organizations, which was established in 2009 to fight the Anti Homosexuality Bill (AHB) and also fight for the rights of LGBTI in Uganda. A team from CSCHRCL and volunteers from partner organizations visited Crested Crane Lighters (CCL) to kick start the campaign.
Perhaps one of the major problems faced by sex workers (both in the rural and urban areas) in Uganda and the world over is the POLICE.
“They rape us and take all our money and there after arrest us. Personally I would prefer the policemen to rape me than take my hard earned money. Do you know the sizes (pointing at her groin) of some of these men that we have to put up with?” said one of the members who preferred anonymity.
The police have stick on name tags that they remove after they rape the sex workers making reporting them impossible. Recently policewomen started dressing like the sex workers and this camouflage makes it easy to make arrests, especially at daytime. The police always complain of the way the sex workers dress up saying its too revealing.
The clients are also a major hurdle in the sex work job as there is always disagreement on the money bargained for. “We bargain for 10,000shs for short and he goes all night long. When I say it is 20,000shs, he beats me up. Some even want to go CNN-Live (without a condom) and yet they don’t want to accept prices. They also take the only money we have and rape us and perform all sorts of sexual acts on us that we don’t want.” Lamented another member.
Usually reporting the culprits is next to impossible because of fear that they will be arrested given that prostitution is illegal in Uganda. They are instead arrested for prostitution and charged with being idle and disorderly.
Many of the sex worker’s ‘duty posts’ are in slummy areas of Bwaise where robbery and theft thrives, these robbers take their money and have them arrested as the police has turned to the “ send a thief to catch a thief” policy. When the anti riot and the mobile police become idle they in turn rape the sex workers.
To address these problems, the group had strategies toward solving them. Look out for each other and ensure that they take the clients to brothels as opposed to taking them home.
There are also plans to engage the police in meetings. Some of the policemen ask for money from brothels to let them operate, so negotiations are underway to see that they have these policemen arrested for taking bribes.
The group seemed informed when it came to LGBTI issues. When asked what they felt about homosexuals, some said they thought gays were involved in a business venture whereby donors pay them for the act. Others thought it was everyone’s freedom to do whatever they wanted.
Perhaps the most informed of them all, in her own way, said some gays are born that way, some are in it for money, some have not yet discovered themselves, where as some feel like its all about the sex( sex with some one of the same sex is better then sex with the opposite sex)
Sex workers were given tips on how to protect themselves how to report, and how to make statements.
They suggested that brochures (both in Luganda and English) be made out for them and distributed to equip the rest of the sex workers who didn’t attend the meeting on what to do when arrested
They also recommended that Transwomen take time to study the community in which they live before coming out. They should also engage in community events like burials and village meetings as the same people in the community who see your good deeds will come out to defend them.
A sex worker and Kuchu alliance is in order given that both are marginalized, discriminated and outcasts of the society.