May 23, 2012

Eviction from the streets

Last month it was announced by the Lusaka Province minister that police officers would start clearing out sex workers from the streets. This call was corroborated by the Police Inspector General who added that the police would start arresting those who failed to comply with the ultimatum. This according the government is being done to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS. When I first read this article I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. When has this solution ever worked?

I’m all for measures that effectively combat the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS but this isn’t one of them. If you move these women from the streets, they will only ply their trade in other areas with the same consequences. You’re not doing anything to stop the spread of disease, protect them from violence often perpetrated against them, and such.

And if perhaps the authors of this ultimatum believe demand will reduce because sex workers are no longer visible on the busy streets, that’s another falsehood. Men (and women) who want to buy sex will find the product.

If this government and all that follow want a long lasting solution they should look to the work being done by non-profit organisations such as Tasintha, which target the root causes that drive women and girls into this dangerous work and help them find alternative income generating activities. They are often driven by desperation wrought by poverty, and the lack of economic opportunities to care for themselves.

If you tackle those issues, you can start reducing the number of women going into this work. If there are no meaningful alternatives available then we’ll continue rehashing the same failed policies.

In the meantime we need to set aside our inherent bias about ‘fallen women’ and continue to take the message of disease prevention to them. Empower them with the tools they need to be safe such as condoms.

Still waiting for someone to say, as a Christian nation we shouldn’t have a single child living on the street, widows dispossessed of all the property or the disabled forced to beg for alms.


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