The Observer (Kampala)

16 December 2012

Uganda: Then and Now - When Karooro Okurut Backed Prostitutes

It is interesting how quickly opinions change; but before she became minister, Mary Karooro Okurut called for the legalization of the trade where women sell their bodies for money.

After the election of Ssebaana Kizito as Kampala mayor in June 1999, Karooro sought to give him advice on how he should handle the problem of prostitution in Kampala.

In her weekly column, The Long View that featured in Daily Monitor, she wrote: "Mr Mayor, don't you think that the wisest and the best way of dealing with this complex problem of sex workers is liberalizing the trade?"

She continued: "Surely this should be the national policy, allowing the sex workers to be registered, licensed and medically examined every week. They would then be able to pay taxes."

Karooro said she was amused by the reaction of some men, when she put this idea before them. She said one of them feared that the sex workers would overcharge them if they are made to pay taxes.

Three years later in 2002 when she became Bushenyi Woman MP and was appointed chairperson of the parliamentary committee on Presidential Affairs, her view on legalizing prostitution changed.

When the former minister of Ethics Dr Nsaba Buturo appeared before the committee and argued that legalizing prostitution could lead to an increase in the spread of HIV/Aids, Karooro agreed with him.

"Government must find a way of helping these young girls because what they are doing is putting their lives and that of their customers at great risk," Karooro said.

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