20 April 2018

Uganda: Ban On Commercial Sex Fails

Mpigi District leadership's dream of having a community free of commercial sex workers has faced a setback after local police failed to enforce the ban passed against this business.

In November last year, Mr John Baptist Kasango, the then officer in charge of Buwama Police Station during a security meeting at Buwama Town Council headquarters, issued a directive banning prostitution in the town.

The directive, which was also adopted by the several local council authorities in the area was, according to police, part of the general district security committee resolutions aimed at curbing crime in the area.

Lack of capacity

However, Mr Joseph Kamukama, the officer in charge of Buwama Police Station, acknowledges that while they are aware of the resolution, they lack capacity to enforce the ban.

"We are still mobilising for resources to help us in enforcement. Sex workers are very many in this area and if we are to arrest them, we need to make adequate preparations and get enough manpower which we have not got yet," Mr Kamukama says.

Mr Kasango explains that police investigations have established that majority of the sex workers were conniving with criminals to rob residents, including passengers, using the Kampala-Masaka Highway.

The ban on sex workers came after one of the lodge attendants in Buwama Town Council reported to police a case of child kidnap and theft which allegedly involved a sex worker.

The suspect is still on the run but the kidnapped child was later rescued, according to police.

The ban also followed a series of meetings with various stakeholders which involved police issuing strict guidelines to all lodge owners, which they said would ease enforcement of the ban on prostitution .

Mr Ibrahim Busuulwa, the Buwama Sub-county security officer, says their investigations have also revealed that lodge owners have not adhered to the new set guidelines.

"We are going to discuss that issue in our next security meeting and come up with a way forward," he says.


Asked why sex workers are still operating freely in the area despite a ban on their business, Mr Gregory Mawanga, the chairperson of Buwama Sub-county said: "they (sex workers) have an association which was legally registered and every time police tries to arrest them, they threaten to sue individual police officers for interfering with their work hence scaring them off."

"But this will not work in our area, they will go or else, let them engage in legally acceptable jobs." he adds.

Ms Grace Mary (as she calls herself during work), one of the sex workers says she will not leave her job because she earns a lot of money from it.

"I get about Shs80,000 per night. Point out any woman today who can raise that money in one night if she is not a sex worker? Let those people leave us and focus on other issues," she says.

Freely practised

Although the practice is illegal, prostitution has remained a common social evil freely practised in different parts of the country and world.

In 2004, authorities in Malaba Town on the Uganda-Kenya border, attempted to legalise the business and enacted a by-law as well as introducing a tax for prostitutes operating in the area.

However, commercial sex workers reneged on the arrangement after some of their clients threatened to boycott the practice over what they allegedly perceived as unnecessary hiking of fees, which consequently forced authorities to call off the by-law.


The guidelines required all lodge attendants to record particulars of their clients, monitor their movements, be conscious about "unusual" faces and report to security all suspicious acts around their places of work.

Lodge owners were also instructed to recruit trained private security guards at their premises, install surveillance cameras and the erecting of perimeter fences around lodges.


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