The International Sex Workers Rights Day is commemorated annually on the 3rd of March to recognise sex workers the world over; to reflect on the rights of sex workers, services, condition of service as well as challenges they face.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme – #BeBoldForChange embraces issues of sex workers as women and recognises the need to be bold to fight for the change we want to see. The theme challenges communities at various levels to stand up for sex worker rights.
BONELA is implementing various projects targeting sex workers. Through this work, BONELA has come to appreciate that violence against sex workers, particularly, sexual violence such as rape and sexual extortion are on the rise thus making them increasingly vulnerable to HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections. Regrettably, such violence is perpetuated by clients as well as the police.
Sex workers face unprecedented stigma and discrimination in their communities. This is fueled by religious dogma, unfavorable legal environment as well as culture. This has greatly limited their ability to seek redress in the face of injustice and discrimination.
Recognising the above challenges BONELA is scaling up
access to services for sex workers including HIV and STI testing, HIV treatment and adherence to treatment.
In addition BONELA is also providing sex workers with prevention commodities such as HIV and STI education, condoms and lubricants. In order to create an enabling environment that promotes, protect and fulfils sex worker rights, BONELA calls on government to;
Repel section 155 of the penal code which perpetuates stigma, discrimination and violence against sex workers.
To increase funding for sex work programming Register Sisonke Association Botswana – a sex worker-led organisation in order to aid mobilisation of sex workers with the view to increase uptake of services.
Sisonke was denied registration on the basis that the objects of the society contravene section 7(2)) (a) of the Societies Act and that the establishment of an entity like the one Sisonke intends to register is in contradiction with Section 156 of the penal code chapter 08:01 of the Laws of Botswana.