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Sex trade becomes easy source of income for urban Ugandans.

Sex trade is  becoming a hot selling profession, Urban Ugandans are doing it anyhow, anytime with anybody in hotels, shops, offices, homes and on the streets.

By Nangayi Guyson – nangayi.guyson@alleastafrica.com

Kampala,Uganda-  Prostitution is one of the oldest professions known in the world but the trend it’s taking in Uganda is worrying.  A few months ago, Uganda’s Ethics minister Simon Lokodo decried about recent increased immorality among people living in urban areas saying that most of them are irresponsibly engaging in sexual acts from anywhere, anyhow, anytime with anybody which is fueling the spread of HIV/Aids in this East African Nation.

Much as sex work is illegal and highly stigmatized and anyone who engages in it is liable to seven years in jail, according to Uganda’s 1950 Penal Code, Sex workers operate freely in Kampala during day and night, especially in the urban centres and may say they do it because there are no jobs in the country.

This new form of prostitution going on recently in Uganda is involving low class, corporate and working class. Women and men making money in a smart and untraceable way in urban places and many people especially sex workers are finding it as an easy source of making income.

A deep investigations was started by alleastafrica to find out why and how sex trade is becoming easy source of income for urban people in Uganda. It took a couple of weeks for this writer to find out what really happens behind the scenes in the wee hours of the night.

It also took a good number of days for the writer to discuss with a sex worker to show him around this business in many parts of Kampala. What this writer found out truly proves that the outcry of the Ethics minister Simon Lokodo was worth.

In many parts of the country especially in urban areas like in the capital Kampala,  sex has become something to survival on ,Ugandans are doing it  anyhow, anytime with anybody in hotels, shops, offices, homes and on the streets.

This writer together with a sex worker who pleaded that only her one name Agnes should be used for privacy reasons started a Journey into this investigation at 9: pm EAT in the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, from this place called “Kiiwa” known to almost everyone in the capital for its extreme use of drugs, crime, and prostitution.

This  is where Agnes, has been since she started selling sex at the age of 13. It’s located just 3km from the City centre and is adjacent to the Headquarters of the Country’s Military Barracks in Makindye, Central Region South-East of the capital Kampala.

Together with Agnes, this writer traveled to many hot-spots of Sex workers around Kampala. They visited places in the Parts of upper Kampala like Katonga road, Shimoni road and along the Tanzanian embassy. They also visited Ntinda hotspots like Bubbles, behind Tuskys and Ntinda market. They also went to Kireka near Crane bank along Mbale –Jinja road to Kabalagala bars and clubs, industrial area, along speke road and William street and our Journey ended at one notorious Slum known as Kimombasa in Bwaise where sex is sold 24-7.

Sex workers negotiate with a white client.

In all the above mentioned places, they found permanent and makeshift lodges nearby and they were all busy working with men and women coming in and out. Everywhere we went, Agnes told this writer “ you see all these women you see here, are looking for money not love” she said as she pointed to the long lines of ladies standing on verandahs and other leaning on the walls of the lodges.

When this writer asked Agnes why these women can’t do other things rather than selling sex, she said “It’s very hard for most of us here to get a job and the payments for employment are hard-earned, and you know how hard it’s to get a job in Uganda- you must know someone very big in the government to get a job with a good pay”. She said as they continued walking down to one Guest House where one of her friends Phiona, who gave birth to the baby boy three weeks ago but does not know his father lives.

Upon meeting Phiona , this writer asked to know whether sex workers sale unprotected sex the reason she  is having a baby, she said “I can’t rule out that sex workers are not selling unprotected sex. When you sale unprotected sex the payment is always high and the women you have seen here are all desperate for money and they will do anything to get it. But for my case, getting this baby was just an accident that condom broke, I have never sold unprotected sex” she explained as she picked up her carrying baby for breastfeeding.

Coming back to Agnes’ story, before she became a sex trade worker, her major life dream was to study and become a nurse, set up a Clinic in one of Kampala slums so that she can treat poor people who die from simple curable diseases like Malaria that killed her mother. But this was washed away when she dropped out of school at the age of 13 to become a sex worker in this place known as “Kiiwa”. Since then, the only job Agnes knows better is to sale sex.

For many years, Agnes , tried to get out of this business because it looked risky and not paying but so many questions came to her mind “Where am I going to get a job me who is not educated?, who knows me anyway?, how much are they going to pay me?”

Hopes of getting rich.

Socialite Bad Black and ex-lover David Greenhalgh who lost 11 Billion Ugandan shillings close to US$3.9m after meeting up in sex trade.

Her hopes of getting rich from this business came to life after hearing the news a few years ago about a Ugandan city Socialite and sex worker nicked Bad black who embezzled 11 Billion Ugandan shillings close to US$3.9m from a British lover. This made Agnes, to restructure herself to become a professional sex worker.

Agnes now works as a corporate sex worker with escort agencies which provide men with ladies for sexual pleasure and also gives masseuses in massage parlours where she offer what’s known in Uganda as “happy endings” to the customers. She has also rented a Hotel suit in Uganda’s Capital Kampala where she attends to her customers on daily basis. Sometimes she receives phone calls from customers asking her to entertain them from their homes.  She has traveled to UK, UEA, and Kuwait working as sex escort.

Agnes does not regret getting into this business and believes she has a nice paying job, “I did not go far in school, and yet I have a good life out of this,” she says.

She adds that “the payments in this business are higher than other jobs. “I am paid by clients on a single short time meet between 200,000 Ugandan shillings ($75) and 500,000 shillings ($150) when in Uganda but when I travel outside the country, it’s pretty much more than that. Which job in Uganda is going to pay you 200,000 shillings ($75) two hours or slightly less?” she asks.

“If I happen to go out there and get a job to work as a waitress, a shop keeper, a house girl, they will pay me 120,000 shillings ($45) or less for a full month but here 120,000 is not enough for even two hours?” Agnes explains.

Agnes is planning to join real estate business. “I plan to build a multiple-storied commercial structure in the city of Kampala towards the end of this year,” she says.

Agnes has friends who are also enjoying this business, For example, Veolia has benefited from this business working as a corporate sex escort in different countries and she recently got a rich white man from Australia and all the plans are finished for her to go and marry the Australian Man.

Agnes  and other girls mentioned above are  just  a few out of the thousands of Ugandan women who are engaged in sex trade and some of them are being trafficked abroad to sell sex.

For instance, Clare was trafficked to Kuwait by a Uganda company which she declined to disclose for security reasons but her working conditions there as a sex worker were unbearable and she decided to return home after she witnessed many Ugandan girls dying. “ I saw and heard of many girls from Kenya and Uganda dying because of the bad things men there do to sex workers, they can drug you, gang rape and they can also ask you to sleep with their dogs” Said Clare.

Agnes alerts that , in Uganda, you can buy sex at anytime from, social media Prostitutes, massage parlours, sex escorts, and mobile masseuse, shopping arcades -most top floors of Kampala arcades house lodges according to Agnes. “It’s difficult to notice them, only regular clients are aware. Some girls you see in those shops in the arcades and you call them shop attendants are not, they disguise themselves but are sex workers and it’s very possible to find a shop with lodge rooms at the back. These arcade lodges are used by men and women who trade in the famous lunch time sex” Agnes alerted.
Risky Business

Uganda is the ninth-fastest growing population in the world, with 76% of its people under the age of 30, according to UNFPA, and nearly 50% is under the age of 15. An estimated 1.6 million people — about 7.3 percent of the country — are living with HIV in the country, but the rate of HIV among sex workers skyrockets and is estimated to be between 35% and 37% in 2014. This figure is a harsh reminder of the HIV epidemic among sex workers – it is more than the highest national average among the general population in sub-Saharan Africa (Swaziland – 27.4%). It is estimated that sex workers and their clients accounted for 16% of new HIV infections in Uganda in 2014. The partners of the clients of sex workers then account for an additional 3%.

Dr. Ahikire Josephine, a Professor at Makerere University School of Women and Gender Studies said “in 2013, there was a study research that was carried out by the department and what was discovered was that Poverty was cited as the main reason for urban people especially female sex workers engaging in this business, we also discovered some of their clients refuse to use a condoms and go for unprotected sex for money.” Dr. Ahikires said.

A long waited comment from Dr. Akosua Adomako Ampofo, a Professor at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana as promised was not received but in her recent lectures and research on sex work life in Ghana and Africa, she says that the emerging focus on sexuality in development thinking has provided an opening for sex work issues to be included in the development framework. Unequal gender power relations restrict women’s employment opportunities and sex work becomes the best option out of very little choices.

suspected Sex workers at a police Station in Kampala, Uganda. Photo-by Stuart Yiga

Harassment

Batte  Shamilah, a former sex worker who heads the Organization for Gender Empowerment and Rights Advocacy (OGERA)  which promotes  bisexual, lesbian, refugee sex workers and ex-workers’ rights told Alleastafrica that “the government of Uganda  should empower young people in order for them to realize their potential and stop them from going into sex work . This should be done through trainings in relation to entrepreneurship skills, saving and marketing.

But if possible through economic empowerment programs of their choice so that even though Education fails they can still have options for other income generating activities for a better livelihood.” Shamilah said.

She added that “another approach should also be using the adult sex workers who have been in the business for quite some time to talk to them about challenges in the sex work industry.

We are doing the same program under a campaign called “Girls Kisoboka campaign”

We have also received reports of sex workers being arrested and harassed by the police but this won’t stop them from coming to streets because they need money.

As sex worker leaders we also don’t encourage people into sex work and sometimes refer them to rehabilitation centers or for psychosocial support.” Shamilah concluded.

Uganda Police has continued to crackdown  Sex workers but nothing has changed. instead many sex workers  have decried continuous harassments from officers who they say sometimes police beat them, demand money, and threaten to publish their faces in the media the  allegations which police has always denied.

Ronnie Wonder, Programmes Director at Scarlet Initiative Uganda, an organization for male sex workers said “Sex trade is becoming an easy source of income for urban people owing to high levels urban unemployment standing at about 50% among females especially. Leaders can only stop this situation by putting strict laws in place that can halt people from this trade.  For children, the government can stop them from joining this trade by keeping them in school amid high cost of living” Wonder said.

Note , in this article all the second names of the sex workers have been omitted to protect and save their dignity and privacy.

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