Mickey Meji, an incoming Africa NGO Delegate and a member of the African Sex Worker Alliance, responds to the presentation of the NGO Report by highlighting the effects of criminalization on sex workers in her community.
I would like to commend the NGO Delegation for their report. I was part of the community participating on the focus group discussions. I can personally affirm that the law came out as a huge barrier to achieving the goal of the 3 Zeros.
Criminalization of same sex behaviours among adults, preferred gender identities and choice of occupation hinders the progress of interventions targeted at eliminating the pandemic. Sex workers are arrested for having condoms on them and this is being used as evidence that one is indeed a sex worker. This discourages these men and women from carrying condoms on them and therefore increases their chances of practicing unsafe sex. When “corrective rape” takes place these people are not able to report or seek services that could prevent them from transmission because their sexual orientation is criminalized. We would all agree that if we do not reach all key populations when making interventions, achieving the goal of zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero aids-related deaths remains just a dream.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, we now know that what we have in place and have for the past thirty years since the first diagnosis is not working. The time for change has come and it is now, ladies and gentlemen. We call for these laws to be eliminated so that these groups are able to realize their basic health and human rights, including access to HIV-related and other health services without the fear of being discriminated against. We also support the NGO report and call upon Member States with the support of UNAIDS to take steps towards decriminalizing adult consensual sex work; by removing laws that reduces sex workers’ access to health and justice services and labour rights.
Thank you, Madam Chair.