KAMPALA – United Nations has been told Uganda to repeal the Penal Code that criminalizes sexual workers, an act that discriminates gender. According to Dr Maxime Houinato, UN Women country representative, women are punished unfairly as compared to men when apprehended.

“There would be no sex workers if there were no customers. We only see sex workers being bashed but not the buyers,” he said.

Most of them (women) are in that sector because they are not economically empowered, Dr Houinato journalists at press conference in Kampala Tuesday, September 17th, 2019.  The meeting was also addressed by Ms Anita Bhatia, the deputy executive director, UN Women.

Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) Sylvia Nabatanzi Muwebwa said according to Uganda’ constitution, everybody has the right to be treated equally with dignity.

“If we are to review laws that are discriminative, the Penal Code is one of them as unfinished businesses,” she said.

Section 139 of the Penal Code Act states that any person who practises or engages in prostitution commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.

Dr Maxime Houinato, UN Women country representative, right, with Ms Deputy Executive Director, UN Women Ms Anita Bhatia, left, adress journalists in Kampala Monday September 16, 2019. (PHOTO: STEPHEN WANDERA)

An evening drive around Kampala on any day of the week, especially around some well-known streets, enables one to encounter several women engaged in the practice.

This is not only limited to the streets but can also be observed in bars and restaurants and private contacts are accessible. The dilemma is why the law is not implemented effectively or when implemented is selectively.

Ms Bhatia recently appointed the Deputy Executive Director in the global body’s agency by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, however hailed Uganda for attaining most of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Uganda is regarded as the mother of SDGs. Next year we shall be celebrating 25 years after the Beijing Conference and Uganda has already finished its report,” said Ms Bhatia who is on a working visit to Uganda. She has met several civil society and government officials.

The Beijing Declaration of 1995, affirmed equality between women and men as a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice.

Ms Bhatia, the veteran Indian-origin diplomat completed her Bachelor of Arts in History from Calcutta University, also holds a Master of Arts in Political Science from Yale University and a Juris Doctor in Law from Georgetown University. Her basic work focuses on bringing the matter of gender equality and empowerment in the forefront under Women (UN-Women) for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships.

Prior to joining the group of UN Women, she worked at the World Bank Group, serving in various senior leadership and management positions, both at the headquarters and in the field. She was appointed director, development partner relations in May 2014. Bhatia is experienced in the area of strategic partnerships, resource mobilisation and management on to the table where she will be able to magnify the work of women and various sectors respectively.



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