Sex work, also known as prostitution, is referred to as the ‘oldest profession’ dating back to Biblical times. It is a common way for women to make money for survival. It is a criminal offense according to the laws of the land, and the Bible tells us that prostitution is immoral. Proverbs 23:27-28 says, “For a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well. Like a bandit she lies in wait, and multiplies the unfaithful among men.”
It dates back to the Bible as it is quoted that the spies Joshua sent to scout Jericho were sheltered by Rahab who was a prostitute. As a result of her obedience, she and her family were rewarded and blessed (Joshua 2:1; 6:17-25).
A woman who had been known for being a sexual sinner before Jesus forgave and cleansed her from sin—found an opportunity to serve Jesus while He was visiting in the home of a Pharisee. The woman, recognizing Christ for who He is, brought a bottle of expensive perfume to Him. In regret and repentance, the woman wept and poured perfume on His feet, wiping it with her hair (Luke 7:36-50).
Likewise, in modern times, sex work is prevalent in almost all the urban centers and some rural areas in Uganda. Sex workers operate clandestinely for fear of arrest, prosecution, harassment and stigmatization.
According to Sylvia Mutoni, a former employee at Lagolo Bar2 located in Konakiraka trading center next to Ssingo barracks, sex workers act as an alternative family to both unmarried and married men. However, this has greatly resulted into the increasing family breakups because most people find comfort from their customers.
“Most married men find pleasure from sex workers than their marital spouses. They have fixed prices which are affordable and this makes them not too demanding,” Mutoni says.
As a result, the cases of single fathers/single mothers as well as child neglect have increased because in the pursuit for sexual pleasure most people end up neglecting their families and engaging in unprotected sex which leads to HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS prevalence mostly in urban centers is also high majorly because of the multiple sexual networks by both the sex workers and their clients.
According to Police reports, urban centers across the country have become a hub for sex workers who station on streets, bars and in dark corners dressed in paltry clothes to attract clients. Some operate as sole individuals and others have associations with common interests.
Some operate on a syndicate approach and connect to customers through their managers and agents, while others directly approach their potential customers by using seductive means such as wearing transparent and mini dresses.
Mutoni says sex workers are organized in different groups and operate in shifts and each group has a gazetted work station. They target mostly soldiers going to and coming back from AMISOM (Somalia). They also connect with civilians, especially the youths hanging out in the different bars and hotels.
She says that their managers and agents get commissions from both the client and the sex worker. On a good day they get up to five clients earning about Ugx100,000 to Ugx150,000.
“On a monthly basis, they earn about 1M to 2M UGX excluding commissions for their agents and managers. They have a monthly income that doubles what most of the civil servants earn,” Mutoni says.
Some operate businesses like boutiques and drinking points selling soft drinks and liquor. These places act as meeting points for corporate sex workers to connect with their clients.
Most of these sex workers are school dropouts from vulnerable communities such as refugee settlements as well as neighboring countries especially DRC, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi through porous borders.
With such history, criminalizing sex work still remains a debacle Government will never find amicable answers for it seems it is, and will forever be here to stay.