Sierra Leone: Sex workers increasingly working in fear


In Sierra Leone, women who sell sex are often abused, attacked, trafficked, and even killed. In the city of Makeni, which is home to over 1,000 sex workers, many of them are young women who were orphaned by the civil war and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Although sex work is legal in the country, these women are seen as immoral outcasts and receive little support from the government or society. The survival of the women who sell sex have been made even more dangerous since the Covid-19 virus pandemic. Sex workers disappear off the streets, some are trafficked against their will to other areas, others are tortured or killed.

Source BBC:

A group of sex workers, led by a woman called Lady P, are on a mission to fight for justice and to improve their lives. ‘Lady P’ task is an uphill one in a world in which it is dangerous to be a sex worker. She narrated of the recent murder of one of the sex workers named Gina.

Isata, a sex worker and also a single mother to a toddler narrated how she disappeared for months with little trace of her whereabouts. Eventually, she and another young Makeni woman were found having been trafficked from Sierra Leone to Gambia and then finally through Senegal to Mali, where they had been abandoned in a mining area.

A local miner befriended them and helped them reach out to a supportive person called Conteh. Conteh, with the help of the miner, a Malian laywer and the International Office for Migration (IOM) Bamako were able to coordinate a successful rescue of the two women after they had been missing for three months. They spent another three months with the IOM in Bamako, Mali before returning home.

Isata’s case suggests that legalisation of the sex trade in Sierra Leone has had little effect on protecting sex workers from trafficking and abuse, including at the hands of law enforcement. Furthermore, sex workers are still exposed to the risk of arrest and criminalisation under loitering laws in the country.

In the view of the above, ASWA is calling for an end to the violence faced by the sex workers in Sierra Leone.ASWA is also calling for recognition of sex work as decent work and the sex workers should access labour rights.

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