Every year on the 17th December International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is recognized. This idea was originally conceived as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington, United States (US) and has now evolved into an annual international event.
This day is celebrated in order to resist hate crimes committed against sex workers the world over as well as to reject social stigma and discrimination contributing to violence against sex workers.
Sex working is a global concern which Sierra Leone is not free from as a nation.
Speaking in recognition of this day, Program Manager of AdvocAid Sierra Leone, Julie Sesay disclosed that there are over 26,000 female commercial sex workers across Sierra Leone based on their findings not to talk about male commercial sex workers.
Madam Sesay explained that AdvocAid works to support women and girls who are in conflict with the law by a way of striving to see that women and girls in conflict with the law are treated fairly and justly.
“We have realized that most often than not commercial sex workers are being arrested by police officers for loitering and frequency, which they believed are petty reasons for which these women should not be arrested for, citing that the law is discriminating and vague as somebody in a car cannot be arrested for loitering whereas somebody on foot can be arrested,” she stated.
She did vow that they are not in support of commercial sex working, but that sex workers should be given the right that they deserve equally so.
“Some of them are doing it but it is not with desire,” she said.
Adding that: “most of them explained to us that because nobody takes care of their needs and other family challenges, they have no choice but to find for themselves which are reasons they are into commercial sex which they use to support themselves, families and other relatives.”
She also stated that the mare fact that things are difficult in the country, one cannot just ask people to move away from what they are doing to earn a living but that she believed that could be done gradually by putting other measures in place.
According to the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Mohamed Haji-Kella, as a government they are not condoning commercial sex work, but that they have to know that there are problems, realities and issues that need to be addressed if they are to stop commercial sex working.
He furthered that the loitering and frequency laws are very good laws but noted that there is no guide to direct law officers to determine who is loitering or not.
“Sierra Leone has the best laws when it comes to women’s empowerment, but the problem we are having has to do with implementation,” he confirmed.
Madam Sesay stated that they have been helping some of these women (Commercial Sex Workers) with skills training and start up grants as a way of discouraging them from this routine.