Civil society vouches for prostitutes
A consortium of 10 Civil Society Organization (CSOs) involved in the fight against HIV, has petitioned President Paul Kagame, requesting him to decriminalise prostitution.
They requested for the removal of some of the articles in the draft penal code which criminalise prostitution, which is defined as any involvement by either a man or woman in sex work as an occupation in exchange for consideration.
The CSOs noted that there is need to review the two articles in the draft penal code considering the negative impact and challenges, thus calling for the decriminalisation of prostitution.
“Given the negative impact such provisions will have on the achievement of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, these articles should be reviewed,” the petition reads in part.
“We are not promoting sex work but we believe that criminalising sex workers isn’t an alternative. Evidence has demonstrated that when assisted, informed and facilitated access to health as well as other opportunities such as income generating activities, sex workers tend to, at certain moments, leave the sex work to entirely contribute to the development of the country.”
According to Dr Aflodis Kagaba, the Executive Director of Health Development Initiative, criminalising prostitution with harsh penalties will not help the situation.
“Once prostitution remains a crime, it will be hard to identify and help the sex workers because they will not easily be identified. Measures should instead be put in place to educate them, give them knowledge on HIV and equip them with life skills,” he said.
Kagaba noted that prostitutes will only become more vulnerable to HIV/Aids infection and Gender Based Violence once it’s criminalised.
He said some of the sex workers do it as a result of poverty so other alternatives should be improvised for them instead of making it a crime.
Aimable Mwananawe, the National Coordinator of AIMR Ihorere Munyarwanda, said criminalising prostitution is a form of discrimination which is contrary to the constitution.
“This will also undermine government’s efforts against HIV/Aids since this group of people won’t easily access HIV services. The penalty is also harsh as sex workers will be subjected to 6 months to two years of imprisonment,” Mwananawe said.
He noted that if it’s criminalised, people will fear to offer health services to prostitutes hence a violation of human rights in terms of lack of access to health.
The 10 organisations, whose petition is dated June 1, include Igihozo Association, AIMR-Ihorere Munyarwanda, Inter-church youth, Faith Victory Association, Health Development Initiative, among others.
Contact email: maria.kaitesi[at]yahoo.com