Malawi sex workers get toll free line to curb Police abuse

Faced with increasing incidents of commercial sex workers’ abuse at the hands of Police, human rights NGO has embarked on a fascinating project that will see the sex workers calling a toll free line for assistance.

Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) executive director Victor Mhango told Nyasa Times in an exclusive interview that the Australian Aid funded project arose from the many cases of abuse, both reported and unreported, by the law enforcers against commercial sex workers.

According to Mhango, CHREAA, in association with the Southern African Litigation Centre, recently conducted a research that shows that a vast majority of sex workers are regularly abused by the Police.

“We noted that sex workers suffer in silence when it comes to Police abuse,” Mhango told Nyasa Times.

Sex workers
Sex workers

“ We realised that Police officers deliberately create a cases against the sex workers with the intention of robbing them of the money they have made or even sexually abusing them,” he noted.

The sex-workers said that they were repeatedly arrested and were only released after being raped by the policemen.

Prostitution is illegal in Malawi and the police often arrest ‘women who frequent public places’ at night and detain them for loitering.

Mhango noted that there have been cases where Police officers order pubs  to be closed with the intention of rounding up the sex workers and sexually abusing them.

“We are not saying that Police officers should not sleep with the sex workers. They can if both parties consent to the act. And the officers should do as private citizens, they should not use their uniform to intimidate the sex workers,” he said.

Mhango said if the sex workers are abused, they are at liberty to call the toll free number 8000333 where they can be assisted.

“We will ensure that the law takes it course because sex workers deserve to be protected by the law just like any other Malawian as enshrined in the Consitution,” he said.

According to the CHREAA boss, sex workers should realise that a complaint does not always have to start at a Police station.

“A complainant has the right to take their grievances straight to the court where proceedings can commerce or, if they are abused by a Police officer, they can bring the issue to the highest ranking officer at the Police station,” he said.

Mhango said CHREAA will also train officers to adhere to the rights of the abused as well as train the sex workers to be aware of complaint mechanisms.

A sex-worker who spoke to Nyasa Times  asked  the police to respect them regardless of how they earn their livelihood.

“I t is not all about sex but it is work and an economic exercise,”

There  is a campaign by  sex- workers rights for decriminalising sex work , saying it would go a long way towards removing the hurdles sex workers face when trying to get health services, especially for HIV.

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