By Jeckonia Otieno
Disgusting. That is what many people think about commercial sex workers. Historically, the men who have kept these women’s business thriving over time are not condemned.
Although it takes two to tango, for the sex workers’ haters, the man has no problem.
The man is like a shadow; always there but no one remembers him.
So when two sex workers, let’s call them Catherine and Agnes, were beaten up and abused by a man who solicited their services, the two women suffered silently.
They knew no one could listen to them, let alone believe their explanation.
Catherine was in the commercial sex work for ten years. Despite the danger involved such as being infected with HIV/Aids and the ultimate stigmatisation associated with it, she hang on – for the money.
Catherine, who is now a peer educator of commercial sex workers in Kilifi County’s Mtwapa area, says the trade was anything but dignifying; the workers were always unsure of what the next man posing as a customer would turn out to be.
“The danger of contracting the HIV virus was ever real because I would sometimes get customers who never wanted to use condoms,” says Catherine.
She notes that in the trade, one would receive many clients some of whom she had never seen before yet many others well known to her.
Some of these men, she says, often turned violent. “He beats you up claiming that you have stolen money from him or just refuses to pay. And if you argue, the public sides with the man because of the suspicion with which commercial sex workers are viewed,” she states. With this kind of attitude, the man makes a twilight woman his property and uses her as he wishes because “he has paid”.
Nowhere to turn
She says there is nowhere commercial sex workers can voice their concerns because even the police are never too keen to hear their stories.
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