Maseru- Lesotho tomorrow joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
The brainchild of American doctor, Annie Sprinkle, the event has been observed on December 17 since 2003, and brings together sex workers, their advocates, friends, families and allies. The Day calls attention to AIDS, hate-crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe, as well as the need to remove the stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by custom and prohibitionist laws that have made violence against this group acceptable.
Lesotho, like most African countries, has no law that protects sex workers, who have often complained of physical abuse, harassment by both members of the public and law-enforcement agents, as well as stigma.
According to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, harassment and discrimination against most at-risk groups, such as sex workers, compromised HIV-prevention strategies, making these communities even more vulnerable to the epidemic.
But while the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is observed on December 17, Lesotho would be holding commemorative activities a day earlier, with a peaceful march set for the Maseru Convention Centre to Sefikeng Sa Moshoeshoe, this morning. The event is being organised by CARE Lesotho—a humanitarian organisation committed to fighting poverty among communities, with a special focus on working alongside impoverished women.
According to Mrs ‘Mamoletsane Khati—the Project Manager for Tšepo HIV Prevention Project under CARE Lesotho—sex workers did not only suffer physical abuse, but also emotional torment, which she said destroyed their self-esteem.
Currently, the Tšepo project works with 300 sex workers, who have been open about their vocation, while the number of those in discreet operations for fear of stigma, is not known.
by Tsitsi Matope
Source – Public Eye