Incoming NGO Delegate for Africa, Mickey Meji, shares the issues sex workers face by law enforcement.
Harassment, rape, needless exposure to HIV and other illnesses (by law enforcers) which is a DIRECT consequence of the current legal framework and its enforcement remains a dominant factor and barrier in achieving the vision of an HIV-free generation, which in this context remains just a dream.
Sex workers are arrested for having condoms on them and this being used as evidence that one is indeed a sex worker; this discourages carrying of condoms on them and therefore increasing their chances of practicing unsafe sex. Sex workers on treatment are arrested, denied access to medication and detained for days which would result in them getting sick and dying. It is clear, ladies and gentlemen, that the laws we have in place and the way they are being enforced towards key populations are contradicting their right to health and that these laws and their enforcement are hindering progress towards eliminating HIV transmission.
But the fact that in the past 15 years only a few administrations – including the Australian state of New South Wales and New Zealand – have decriminalised sex work means that its opponents are powerful and that our efforts have been inadequate. Their HIV prevalence tells the tale: A new approach is needed. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, we suggest that we all work diligently in partnership with UNAIDS and Member States to take steps towards decriminalizing adult consensual sex work by removing laws and policies that reduces sex workers’ and their clients access to health and justice services, and, by so doing, we would have taken a step towards reaching the goal of Zero new infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths. Thank you.