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Sex workers register for evacuation from Gulu as lockdown bites

The intersection of Cemetery Road and Kampala Road in Gulu Town where commercial sex workers would line up to hook u with their clients before COVID-19 now is visibly deserted – Photo by Dominic Ochola

Gulu, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  At least 40 commercial sex workers have asked to be evacuated to their districts of origin after failing to sustain themselves in Gulu during the ongoing lockdown.

A rapid assessment conducted by the Special Interest Group Sub-Committee of the District Task Force documented up 528 commercial sex workers in Gulu.

Tegwana Parish Chairperson Alex Odongo Okoya who spearheaded the assessment said that most of the registered women were from parts of Central Uganda, West Nile and Lango.

One of the sex workers from Karenga District who preferred anonymity explains that she relocated to Gulu before the outbreak of COVID-19 and business was flourishing at the time, unlike today when everything is at a standstill.

Another one who only preferred to be called Akao from Lira Town divulged to URN that with the closure of bars and lodges due to the contagion, it is increasingly becoming difficult to feed and find accommodation.

Gulu District Chiarman Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, who is also the Chairperson of the Resource Mobilization Committee under the District Task Force said 40 of the sex workers have registered for evacuation.

Mapenduzi explained that development partners like Dream Centre Uganda and Cavalry Chapel, a Pentecostal Church in Gulu have backed the district with logistics to rehabilitate the sex workers through self-sustaining livelihood projects.

Last week, the District Task Force with resource backing from development partners supported 400 commercial sex workers with food aid which included maize floor and cooking oil to enable them cope up with the pandemic.

Prostitution in Uganda is outlawed under the 1950 Penal Code Act. However, the vice remains widespread in the country because of poverty and weak law enforcement.

In March, President Yoweri Museveni declared a national lockdown leading to closure of all public institutions, bars and lodges among others as a safeguard to curb spread of the infectious pandemic. The impact of the lockdown has affected lives of millions of ordinary Ugandans.

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