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Sex workers lament as effects of Covid-19 continues to bite – KBC | Kenya’s Watching


The world is today reeling from the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic, a plague whose effects have affected all segments of the society.

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Such has been the predicament of sex workers operating in Mombasa and Kilifi counties whose fortunes have dipped as they struggle to adjust to the new normal.

Regarded as the world’s oldest profession, the trade was hit hard when the government announced a raft of measures including a curfew meant to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

At a building in Malindi town, a group of sex workers congregate as they seek to find common ground. Speaker after speaker narrating of their tribulations occasioned by the pandemic, some of which are heart-breaking.  One of their own, they tell me, was badly wounded during a night police operation targeting those flouting the curfew.

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For Zainab Mwandime (not her real name), nothing had prepared them for what hit them. “The coronavirus pandemic has reduced us to paupers. The closure of bars and brothels meant that we could not operate” Zainab laments.

The group says the government should have considered sex workers as among essential service providers. “Sex workers were providing essential services. That service was interrupted with the containment measures. The government should have considered us for support.” Argue members of the group.

According to Maryline Laini, the executive director of Nkoko Iju Africa, an organisation that champions for sexual minority rights through advocacy, the containment measures resulted in unique challenges for sex workers. “All the bars, brothels clubs and hotspots were closed and their work was put on hold without warning. Mind you, most of the sex workers were migrants from other counties.” She says.

And with the resumption of the face to face learning early January, the group says education for their children has been interrupted as most had already relocated with their families in search of a soft landing after their fortunes tumbled.

Laini says some of the children had suffered mental torment during the containment period after a period of lack and realizing what their mothers engage in to put food on the table. “Some of them require mental health therapy as they finally came to know what their mothers do during the pandemic. They fear that their mothers will have to endure the same struggle for another year with the modification of the school calendar.” Observes Laini.

According to Omari Mwanjama, the National AIDS Control Council coast regional coordinator, the sex workers’ question has presented a new challenge in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Mwanjama says the Covid-19 containment measures has presented stakeholders in the fight against HIV with a big challenge as they seek to ensure gains recorded over the years are sustained.

“Night curfews resulted in the devolving of sex work to the estates. Covid-19 has had an effect on interventions.” Observes Mwanjama.



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