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Уганда: Запрету Нсабы Бутуро не хватает целостности

Government's hasty move to ban a planned regional workshop for sex workers was not well thought out. It was a reactive decision that only portrayed the authorities' weakness in identifying what really defines 'Ethics and Integrity.'

The workshop, targeting sex workers in East Africa, was being organised in Entebbe by Akina Mama Wa Africa, a women's organisation.

First of its kind, the workshop was meant to be a formal interaction between sex workers, development workers and women's rights groups to listen to views and opinions and find a way to help them understand and protect their health, human and sexual rights.

In a press statement, however, Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Dr. James Nsaba Buturo described the workshop as conspiracy to "commit a criminal offence."

This hasty statement not only shows how lightly this government takes women's issues, but also just how HIV/AIDS prevention strategies will continue to fail due to clumsy oversights by a government full of male-dominated decision-makers.

By denying a voice to sex workers - one of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to HIV/AIDS - government is merely widening the passage for increased infections.

We all know that prostitution as a trade is thriving because there is a ready market for it. Otherwise it would not make sense to sell refrigerators in Alaska, or fur coats in the Sahara!

Government should have viewed this rare workshop as an opportunity to listen to the voices of women [and men] who have for long been shunned by society and considered 'immoral.'

This kind of forum would hopefully make them rethink their trade as they begin to clearly see the risks involved. They would thus know better how to protect both themselves and their 'clients' from infections.

Denying sex workers a voice, the right of expression and an opportunity to meet, interact and share their views, is merely discrimination and a violation of their human rights.

Prostitution is described as provision of sexual services for financial gain. But given global trends, this understanding is being re-defined.

Prostitution is no longer only about a girl being picked up on the street or in a pub.

Recent reports show that more women/girls (who do not 'officially' consider themselves prostitutes) are providing sexual services for financial gain and other favours.

Many are offering sexual services in exchange for school fees, mobile phones, cars and luxurious lives. Some have coined calm words such as 'detoothing' to justify their acts. But it is very likely that they are in turn 'detoothed'!

Will Buturo send a press statement condemning these too, or will he continue targeting the 'self confessed' prostitute?

If Buturo thinks he can fight HIV by condemning prostitution, then he better think again. In fact, sex workers might be better at protecting themselves than the desperate schoolgirl seeking next term's fees!

It is also unclear how Buturo classifies what is ethical and what is not.

Everyday brings more saddening stories of corruption in government offices, hospitals and schools.

Patients have lost their lives because they could not 'bribe' a doctor or a nurse to get their attention. In 2004, Uganda was ranked by Transparency International the 9th most corrupt country among 102 rated. We are yet to know where Uganda ranks in prostitution. Prostitution is a crime. But so is corruption!

We are still waiting for Buturo's statement giving his position on the IGG's disturbing annual reports. In 2005, the same ministry blocked 'The Vagina Monologues', a feminist play that gave women, as a human right, the opportunity and freedom to interact and explore their sexuality.

This was yet another sign of continued patriarchy, male-dominance and suppression of women's rights. It is also amazing that government will continue to condemn sex trade when economic situations are pushing them to the wall.

Is that all the Minister of Ethics and Integrity can do? Just spending his time banning 'Vagina Monologues' and prostitutes' workshops? I am yet to hear of a government attempt to come up with measures to curb acts of prostitution.

With whom do the sex workers trade anyway? Why are we not condemning the buyers? Or is it ethical to buy sex but unethical to supply it? Balanced laws should punish both the buyer and the seller. After all, it takes two to tangle. Besides, these 'immoral' prostitutes sometimes tell stories of law enforcers asking them for sex in exchange for their freedom. Now if that is not double standards, what is it?

Why condemn women trying to earn a living because their government has failed to provide jobs?

I am not defending prostitution. It is very traumatising and degrading to the people involved. But we cannot bury our heads in the sand in the name of 'ethics and integrity' in a country where none exists.

Source: AllAfrica.com, USA