Malawi sex workers alliance demand respect, legalisation of prostitution

Sex workers deserve as much respect as any other professional, newly elected president of the National Sex Workers Alliance Lorreta Mkulichi says.

Speaking at the end of a two day sex workers meeting at Lilongwe Hotel, Mkulichi noted that sex work is like any other career.

“It’s my body and I use it as a business. So there is need for government to legalise sex work,” she said.

Mkulichi said legalising would help in fighting the Aids epidemic.

“If government legalised commercial sex work, it will be easy for clients to identify us because we will have IDs and that being the case, they will make sure that they are protected when having sex with us because they will know what they are dealing with.

Sex workers alliance officials, Mkulichi is on the centre (barefooted).-Photo Nyasa Times

“But with the current scenario, you do not know who is a commercial sex worker or not and this endangers lives because some sex workers dress like office professionals and they fool many men,” she said, adding that they will soon be lobbying Parliament to have commercial sex work legalised.

Mkulichi, who plies her trade in Mwanza, demanded Malawians to treat commercial sex workers with respect.

“They should not discriminate against us,” she said, adding “We are part and parcel of the community. We are citizens of Malawi, we have rights too.”

Mkulichi said: “We have clients from across board including pastors and Police so people should not treat us like rubbish.”

She revealed that the sex workers complain of abuse at the hand of the Police after they are arrested and truck drivers.

“When the Police arrest us, they ask us kuti tiziwombole…which means that they have sex with us without protection. Sometimes, you are forced to have sex with even five of them at one go if you want to be released,” she said.

She also said medical personnel are also culprits when it comes to mistreating commercial sex workers.

“When we contract STIs and go to the hospital…the clinical officers ask us to undress and start playing with our private parts and poking fun of them,” she claimed. “Sometimes they just ask you to wait outside saying paja ndinu mahule dikirani tithandize anthu ofunikira.

Mkulichi claimed that even when it comes to law, sex workers are treated as worthless beings.

“For example, there is the famous case of the 25 sex workers that were arrested at drinking joints in Mwanza on vagabond charges. Although there were also some men that were arrested, it was only the female sex workers that were forcibly taken to the hospital and had an HIV test against their consent.

“Added to that, when all of us were found positive, our results were made public and this was an infringement on our right to privacy.”

Over 50 sex workers from the country’s hotspots converged at Lilongwe Hotel for two days where they formed a nationwide sex workers alliance and elected a national working committee.

Although sex work is illegal in the country, human rights lawyer Chrispin Sibande said since the Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to association and opinion, the sex workers have not broken any law by forming an alliance.

Mary Kumbweza Banda, who chairs the National AIDS Commission, said empowering sex workers could spell “high condom use, increased HIV testing, screening for diseases and increased access to anti-retroviral therapy.”

She said more access to the services “will in the long run contribute to reduction of new infections.”

During the elections, Lorreta Mkulichi was elected chairperson seconded by Annesi Linje. Esther Chimbewa and Mphatso Chibwe were elected secretary and vice respectively while Zinenani Majawa and Chipo Mitawa will publicise the association. Talimba Pasadi was elected treasure while the rest of the committee members are Waeko Mphande, Christina Chisunkha, Anozenje Kamanga, Zione Chikako, Wezi Gondwe and Lucy Kumwenda.

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