Empowered at Dusk - A Qualitative Study About Sex Work Activism in Kampala
Abstract: Sex workers around the world have always suffered from discrimination and stigmatization. This puts them in a vulnerable situation because of little social support. In the Ugandan context, sex workers suffer from stigma due to both legal and cultural practices. Many of the sex workers in Uganda come from a low socioeconomic and educational background and enter sex work due to financial reasons. Our aim with this research is to document the sex work activist scene, mapping the actors and activities in the field in Kampala and research the different support mechanisms within the sex work community. In the spring of 2015 we travelled to Uganda to conduct a „Minor field study‟ in Kampala. The data we collected in Uganda is the material to this qualitative research about sex work activism in Kampala. The sex work activists have established several organizations that offer a variety of support activities with the goal to empower sex workers, to create awareness and to challenge laws about sex work. To get a grasp of the different services provided, the study is partly ethnographic. We followed the sex work activists to their events, met up with their partner organizations and were out on the field to get a picture of the sex work scene. We have done qualitative interviews focusing on two central support services that the sex work activists provide: paralegal training and peer-support. We interviewed different actors in these fields to get a broader picture of how paralegals and peer-supporters work and how these different activities have changed the sex work community. The results indicate that there are advanced support mechanisms within the sex worker led organizations. Due to active outreach work, the sex worker led organizations have reached a considerable number of sex workers in Kampala and been able to provide them with adequate information about safer sex work. By working together with different sex work friendly organizations, they have managed to empower sex workers and create awareness about their rights in the communities they operate in. Access to free condoms and safer sex work information has improved by outreach work and through establishing cooperation with brothel owners and local chairmen. Through various peer support mechanisms the sex workers have created an effective and powerful support network. The paralegal training has radically improved the legal awareness within the sex work community. Sex work activists and their organizations have with the support from human rights lawyers been able to petition against oppressive laws and share a mutual goal of decriminalization of sex work.
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