Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Gulu district leaders have bowed to demands for food relief by commercial sex workers as the extended national lockdown by government continues to bite.
The affected group came up earlier to cry for help saying many of them were starving and pleaded to be classified as a vulnerable group that needs to be considered for urgent food relief. The group also threatened to name and shame leaders who benefit from their illicit trade who have abandoned them at their time of need.
The Gulu district COVID-19 task force has now responded to the call and conducted a rapid assessment to ascertain their level of vulnerability. Up to 528 commercial sex workers were documented in the process.
Alex Odongo Okoya, the Tegwana Parish Chairperson in Pece Division who spearheaded the special interest group committee meeting said that they extracted confidential information from the sex workers to facilitate a rehabilitation programme.
Gulu district chairperson Martine Ojara Mapenduzi who is also the Chairperson of the Resource mobilization for the District Task Force explained that the district backed by development partners have considered support for 400 sex workers with food aid.
The food aid that includes maize flour, cooking oil and beans among others is confidentially distributed using vouchers in seven designated points across Pece, Laroo, Bardege and Layibi Divisions of Gulu Municipality.
The move however has sparked off a protracted debate among locals and leaders. Kelly Komakech, the Pece Division chairperson opposed the idea saying prostitution is an outlawed activity in Uganda and aiding practitioners even in the time of need is abetting crime.
Meanwhile, Moses Abonga, the Laroo Division chairperson contends that leaders should instead of bowing to the emotional blackmail and threats, unite against such immoral and diversionary pressure.
The 1950 Penal Code outlawed prostitution in Uganda but the vice is widespread in the country because of poverty and lack of sustainable livelihood opportunities for those involved.