End prejudices against us, sex workers now demand

By DENNIS ONYANGO and JAMES OMORO

KISUMU, KENYA: More than 300 sex workers and homosexuals protested along the streets of Kisumu town to mark this year’s international day to end violence against them.

The commemoration started with a procession from Kondele to the city centre, as they pointed an accusing finger at police officers and an intolerant community, citing brutality and discrimination.

The sex workers claimed many of their colleagues had been killed, raped, and maimed as a result of harsh treatment. They asked the Government to recognise and protect their rights.

Sylvia Odongo, a sex worker,  who got joined the trade after completing Form Four five years ago,  said she supports her siblings through the business after her parents died.

“We face harassment from all corners, from police officers to boda boda operators and the wider community. Our clients have been scared away and business is no longer good enough for us,” Odongo, 24, said.

The group converged at the main Kisumu bus terminus where one of them was reportedly stripped naked recently by matatu operators for alleged indecent dressing.

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Full protection

Although sex work is illegal in Kenya, the group braved stares as they narrated their plight in front of the camera, with full police protection.

The group carried posters and banners written “Sex work is not a disease or a choice.”

“It is unfortunate that society has turned its back on sex workers and no one speaks for them or even intervenes when they are abused or killed,” said Felix Tasanda, a homesexual.

At some point, the police had to intervene when rowdy youth tried to stop the procession.

“We have never witnessed such a thing in Kisumu and we should not allow the morals of society to be eroded. The police should not watch this happen,” said Kennedy Okwach, a businessman.

Meanwhile, a section of Homa Bay County leaders have appealed to residents to stem promiscuity to curb HIV and Aids.

Homa Bay Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata and Homa Bay Deputy Commissioner Ali Duba told youth to change their sexual behaviour.

The leaders expressed concern that Homa Bay County has a high HIV and Aids prevalence rate and that the area will not achieve economic growth if youth do not change their sexual behaviour and avoid sexual relations that are considered high-risk.

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Kondele Kisumu Homabay