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Home Health & Fitness The Sad Realities of Sexual Violence Against Commercial Sex Workers

The Sad Realities of Sexual Violence Against Commercial Sex Workers

By Aramata Jatta
Unpleasant realities of sexual violence against commercial sex workers have been revealed as the industry grapples with the rippling effects of covid-19
Research shows that there is a high prevalence of sexual violence against FSW in the Gambia with 29% of participants reporting a client forced them to have sex in their lifetime.
Female Sex Workers (FSW) are women who receive money or goods in exchange for consensual sexual services either regularly or occasionally, to earn a livelihood and struggle out of poverty.FSW are vulnerable to sexual violence and harassment during working hour, thus violating their human rights.
A regular female sex worker (name withheld) and will be referred to as Moo in this story, told this medium that they encounter numerous cases of harassment and violence in their daily routine and they have nowhere to turn to.
“Sometimes you will have a customer who would have sex with you and he will refuse to pay and if you insist, he will beat you up and walk away”.
Moo, lamented that men would attack them and have sex with them forcefully without protection which sometimes leads to unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
She said coming from a very poor background where they have little or nothing to eat, they would starve for days without food.
“Sadly we were thrown out of our place by the lord, and I decided to leave my country and come here in search of a better life. I have a family to feed back home, I have 2kids to look after, a rent to pay and I have my needs as well, the street is where I get my income to sustain myself and my family”.
The 29 year old, Non Gambian was introduce to the activity by her friend and has been engaged in this trade for the pas 6years which gave her two children. Moo was raised by a single mother whose husband is said to have abandoned her with three children and absconded with his Lover.
Narrating the ordeals that FSW endures Amanda a social worker at the Network against Gender Based Violence working at one of the one stop centers in kanifing general hospital recalled how one of these ladies was seriously raped by a taxi trader.
Amanda narrates “according to her (the victim) she was at a bar in kololi having a drink and one of her male friend called her to come out saying he wanted to go with her, when she came out and stood where the taxis are packed, waiting for her friend. A taxi driver approached her and asked her to go with him, but she refused. Minutes later the driver gave her a drink which she drank and entered the car together with the driver and another man”.
“As they were going all of a sudden the driver stopped the car, when she asked why they packed, he responded that this is where we are going to stop to do the thing, what thing she asked and the man responded sex. When she resisted the taxi driver held her throat and squeezed her mouth while the other guy came onto her to forcefully have sex with her. When that one was done he passed her to the driver who also had sex with her through her anus after which she was dump in front of her gate unconscious and was rushed to the hospital”.
“Upon arrival at the hospital she was vomiting blood and bleeding through her private parts, her vigina was tore, and her anus was in a bad shape, when we tried touching around that part she would cry. She was having wounds and bruises on her face”.
Amanda’s Network gathers medical aid for victims of rape, domestic violence and different social abuses. They also check whether the victims are HIV positive after rape
After healing they are counseled, survivors who are willing to quit the street life will be supported with a trade they can do with their hands to earn a decent living whilst majority of the perpetrators are never caught.
Gambia unlike many countries that have associations of sex workers that train their members on comprehensive sexual education, use of contraceptives and safety measures on how they can protect themselves from perpetrators.
Mbasi Manneh, Programme Officer Think Young Women believes that the stigma attached to these sex workers also contribute to the under reporting of cases of violence “when a sex worker reports that she is been raped people will not take her seriously because they will say she is a sex worker how come she is saying she was raped”.
Being categorized as immoral, only few will be ready to listen to FSW, and try to advise them on ways to protect them but no one has control over these workers or what they do.
“People have their rights whether they are commercial sex workers or not, that is the life they find themselves in. No one has the right to condemn them on the basis of beliefs, this does not mean that when people advocate for these vulnerable groups, you are necessarily empowering them but rather it is to support someone who has already made up their mind, about the work they want to do”.
“They have their own reasons from family down to society on what led them to the streets, society should give them their space, they need to be organised to fight violence and harassment. educate each other on safe sex and have protective machanism because the more they are organised the less cases of having sexually transmitted diseases”.
Mbasi concluded that FSW are human and have rights to do what they want and to live in a safe and conducive environment like any other person. She said if you can’t help them and show them the right way don’t judge them.

However section 136 of the immigration act states that every woman who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earning of prostitution, or who is proved to have , for the purpose of gain , exercise control, direction or influence over the movement of a prostitute in such a manner as to show that she is aiding, abetting or compelling her prostitution with any person, or generally, is guilty of misdemeanour.
And section 13 (e) of this same act finds non Gambian citizens who are engaged in sex work and other immoral occupation as prohibited immigrants.
Although this practice has some negative health,cultural and social implications,it is nonetheless a matter of choice and regardless of what these ladies are engaged in they deserve human rights.
A typical Gambian would say there are many ways to earn a decent living.
But the question is what are policy makers doing in addressing this challenges and bringing in machanism to empower this people and take them off the streets.

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