Archive: December 23, 2022

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.


On December 17th, Coast Sex Workers Alliance joined other sex workers globally to mark the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This statement is a call to action to hear our voices, to legislate and program for our protection.

Sex work in Kenya and globally has been deeply politicized as an issue of morality and punishable by law, rather than as a viable way to make a living. Sex work is largely criminalized which further infringes on our rights and subsequently our safety from multiple harms. Female sex workers who use drugs are further stigmatized, underserved and criminalized.

We continue to face overlapping challenges when accessing health services like sexual and reproductive health, HIV care and treatment, and harm reduction services, where most programs are male-centered. Criminalization of drug use does not stop its uptake but, rather, further exposes people who use drugs, especially women, to risks such as HIV acquisition and police brutality. This is why drug use must be decriminalized. Specifically, the MOHA bill, recently introduced to parliament, gives the police and the government power to recklessly persecute drug users, thus the MOHA bill must be rescinded.

The constitution of Kenya states that every citizen of the country has a right to the highest attainable standard of health. Regardless of this assurance, health facilities continue to infringe on our right to access quality health care services mostly because of ‘morality ‘issues and lack of knowledge and understanding. There is a need for stigma and discrimination training with health professionals to address negative attitudes towards sex workers who use/inject drugs.

PrEP is a potentially useful HIV prevention intervention among sex workers who inject drugs, but must be provided as part of a suite of HIV prevention approaches and alongside, NOT INSTEAD OF evidence-based harm reduction services. There’s the need to avoid over-medicalized, simplistic responses that are seen as politically easier than needle and syringe programs and/or opium agonist therapy. Community-led and peer-based approaches must be central to how PrEP is positioned and made available to sex workers who inject drugs in order to remove barriers and ensure safety from HIV acquisition.

In Summary, COSWA calls for the following actions to secure protection for all sex workers, and particularly those who use drugs:

  • Decriminalization of Sex Work
  • Decriminalization of Drug Use; rescind the MOHA bill
  • Health professionals to undergo stigma and discrimination training to address negative attitudes towards sex workers who use drugs.
  • Sex workers who use drugs are supported to design and develop their own PrEP programs alongside harm reduction services.

By Liz, COSWA, AVAC 2022 Fellow.