Prostitution is one of the many booming trades in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
It is rapidly changing players’ lives. The risky business has become an open enterprise in most parts of Kampala metropolitan areas – especially at night where sellers feel it’s a better hour for them.
Tightly dressed or dressed in enticing attires with thighs and breasts at display – the traders sit or stand at a right posture next or near lodges’ doors waiting for their male customers.
At this moment, many of them are looking from left to right and fore in order not to miss any chance of a man passing by.
They also battle it out should a man stop. Nice words, soft touches are key element one uses to win that particular man. The other option is fee to be paid, the investigations reveal.
Another interesting thing is that they very well know who wants a short [quickie] or long hour session, and once they detect, they call on you with a “killer smile”.
Whereas common language used is local parlance [Luganda, Lunyakore, among others] – there are those [many] that are fluent in English!
“Oh sweet heart, can we go for some short! You’re looking awesome – baby,” they use this statement to entice men; a sex worker tries it out to this reporter.
“You want it quick yet hotter? I can make it better,” one adds.
But why sex trade?
Anita Nuzh [her moniker] told our investigative journalist that: “I’m now 25 with one fatherless child. The father died immediately I gave birth and it was difficult for me to survive without him.”
“Now, I’m making money here and it’s giving me hope since on daily basis, I go home with not less than 200, 000 Uganda shilling.”
“This is my lifetime trade. It’s profitable,” she added.
According to Nuzh, she disciplined one of her clients – a man she detected had a lot of money with on one day.
“Early this year, with help of friends in the same business, there came a man who stopped upon seeing me. He asked me for sex and I said, okay – we go. He paid shilling 10,000 for a room [within trade zone] and gave me shilling 20,000 for 30 minute session. After nearly 5 minutes into the game and I was screaming louder in enjoyment, the door was opened and he noticed, when he asked me what the matter was, I told him nothing – do me. My friends had entered in and took his wallet which later we found had 500, 000 Uganda shilling,” she narrated.
With tremor, and sweats all over his body, Nuzh said she told the man ‘let me come back’ and that was the end of their sexual intercourse.
The young beautiful looking mother of one says stealing from their clients is a daily practice since most of them do not want to be used for more than 30 minutes – a duration one can earn between Uganda shilling 10,000 to shilling 30,000.
“Some of the men who approached us bargain a lot – most of them even stake from Uganda shilling 5,000 and agree to pay for room themselves. These are men we just know have money,” she added.
Asked what other benefits she has or get from selling herself, the 25 year old says: “I have five motorcycles which I have hired out for boda-boda business. I’m getting richer and richer and I don’t regret what I’m doing or done.”
She says her next plan is to develop half an acre land she bought in Nansana Municipality – north of capital Kampala.
“I’m soon being a landlady. I want the dream possible in the next 2 years and it’s coming to pass,” the 25 year old added.
One interesting thing about this group of sex workers is that they are well organized as far as development and change of their livelihoods is concerned.
They are into saving association and according to many who interacted with this reporter, savings are made every Sundays. They have elected leaders; from chairperson to disciplinary officer and loan officers.
“Every Sunday evening each of us according to our constitution must save Uganda shilling 50,000 and there is a fine of shilling 10,000 for anybody who defaults,” sex workers’ saving group treasurer who preferred anonymity told this author.
“We’re 100 members trading from William Street. By first week of December, we have a meeting where members will be disbursed money [their savings] for the last twelve months,” she added.
According to her, members will receive between Uganda shilling 500,000 to 6,000,000 [Five hundred thousand shillings to six million shillings] depending on how one was able to commit to saving.
About the legality of their trade, she opened: “We’re registered as Village Savings and Loan Association [VSLA], we have legal documents and we save our money in a bank.”
According to her, sex trade is not a crime as long as it does not hurt those interested, as long as it’s done indoor, adding: “I have sold myself for 20 years now and I have built a permanent home – my first born graduated from the university last year.”
From all the interactions we have had with some of the sex traders attached to William Street – Kampala – prostitution is a lucrative business. Also, this group of women mind seriously about their health and without condom ON, “No Sex”.
“For the 20 years, no single day have I ever allowed a man to enter me minus putting on condom. I’m mindful about my health and as friends, we always emphasize among ourselves during meetings to always demand for protection,” she reveals.
Doreen Agatha Lukome, a businesswoman in Down Town Kampala says her current business was able to take off with capital she generated from sex trade.
She says life was too hard for her to settle in Kampala after leaving their village in Western part of Uganda in 2010.
“I expected to have a better living, better life at my uncle’s home. I never had such dreams. My aunt would harass me, abuse me and sometimes beat me up. I later took to the street – accepted to do prostitution and now I’m a born-again Christian,” Ms narrates her story.
A mother of three children, two boys and a girl, added that her husband –a one Lukome, when they just met in early 2011accepted to be with [marry] her regardless of what she was doing.
“He was my customer twice. When we met at some restaurant in town – he proposed to me and told me that “I want you as my wife”. He was such a humble man but initially I thought he was teasing me. He told me and left. The following day he asked for my audience and we met again, and this time – he came with a flower,” now a powerful businesswoman added.
It was from that year, around August that the pair had their traditional marriage followed by Church wedding.
“From selling myself on the streets of Kampala to a housewife and a mother, a businessman whose story make you shade tears, won’t look back” she added.
James Bakama [sir name not real for privacy], a boda boda rider in Kampala says prostitution is one ways they boda boda riders are surviving. Mr. Bakama added that, with his stage near William Street – prostitution “supermarket”, they are first to be considered.
“Some men prefer to go and enjoy themselves from another hotel because of security reason, and in this case, we carry them at a good price because it’s a night,” he revealed.
On transporting sex traders alone daily, the 35 year old boda rider says he mints between Uganda shilling 40,000 to 60,000.
This he says amounts to between Uganda shilling 1,200, 000 to 1,800,000 monthly.
“We make real money, clean money that what our customers make,” Bakama said with happiness.
Legality in Uganda.
According to the 1950 Penal Code of Uganda, prostitution is illegal despite its widespread. Many Ugandan youth have turned to prostitution because of poverty and lack of other opportunities, especially in government.
Article 167 of Uganda Penal Code says, [a] any person who being a prostitute, behaves in a disorderly or indecent manner in any public place; wanders or places him or herself in any public place to beg or gather alms, [b] or causes or procures or encourages any child to do so; [c] plays at any game of chance for money or money’s worth in any public place; [d] [publicly conducts him or herself in a manner likely to cause a breach of the place; [e] without lawful excuse, publicly does indecent act; [f] in any public place solicits or loiters for immoral purposes; [g] wanders about and endeavors by the exposure of wounds or deformation to obtain or gather alms, shall be deemed an idle and disorderly person, and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for three months or to a fine not exceeding three thousands shillings or to both such fine and imprisonment, but in case of an offence contrary to paragraph [a], [e] or [f] that person is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
However, with all those legal provisions in place, and with many often arrested by government security forces, none has been convicted to prison. In fact, many have been subjected to community services and acquitted.
It has become a source of income even when its risks are high. While it’s an open business, numbers of females are quite visible compared to buyers [males] who often remain wary.
And from the investigations done, most men don’t want to be noticed, many of them bargain on phone or call a woman he wants to have sex with to his car, a restaurant and talk about terms and condition.
“It’s shameful seeing a man bargain for sex, extremely shameful but there are many men who cheat on their wives in Kampala,” Aggrey Kirundu tells this news website.
Government to take actions.
Often, Ethics and Integrity Minister Fr. Simon Lokodo has decried increased immorality among people living in urban areas.
He notes that many of these young people are recklessly engaging in sexual acts from anywhere, anyhow, anytime with anybody.
To him, it’s increasing the spread of HIV/Aids not only in Uganda but in the entire great lakes region.
“They are doing it secretly not openly but that’s criminal,” Fr. Simon Lokodo told TND News Uganda on Wednesday morning.
“Government is not condoning that. It’s unlawful and you must have heard me arresting them in Kampala, especially those operating from Speke Street and Kabalagala,” Minister Lokodo also said when asked on what government has put in place to restrict sex trade in Kampala and Uganda.
The popular arrest of these traders was way back in March 2015 when Uganda’s Ethic and Integrity Minister, Fr. Simon Peter Lokodo says government’s pledge to work with responsible institutions to curb the ever increasing practice of prostitution and pornography was reaching success end.
Calling it evil act, Fr. Minister Lokodo says prostitution is the sexual relations in exchange for payment or some other benefit – describing it also as “commercial sex”.
“The latest incidence is the arrest of men and women in a Brothel in Bakuli, a Kampala Surburb yesterday Thursday 5th March 2015. The culprits are under custody at the Central Police Station, Kampala for further interrogation and charge by the Police and other responsible institutions,” Minister said at that time.
“Government remains committed to curbing the ever-increasing immorality in Uganda through enforcement of the law, prosecution, courts. This will also require concerted efforts with; nonprofit organizations, service providers, women, child and youth advocates, schools, survivors, legislators, faith and business communities, labor, and health. We call upon all stakeholders and right thinking citizens of Uganda to cooperate in all programs to curb this,” he added.
In 2015, Uganda’s Parliament discussed the matter of prostitution where it referred to prostitutes as sex workers. By such reference though, parliament found there was no such term ‘sex worker’ under Uganda law.
This popular practice is not only limited to most streets but can be executed or in bars, restaurant and other private places.
In 2003, Ugandan government ordered sex workers to pay a tax of 9,000 Uganda shilling in order to operate in Malaba. Also in 2003, Ugandan MPs met sex workers who were concerned about police brutality and claiming that it was unfair that police officers were arresting sex workers while they waited for their clients.
Ahead of the 2007 Commonwealth leaders’ meeting in Kampala, the prostitutes were moved out of the city centre to designated zones in the suburbs.
“Great Lakes” sex workers disagree.
In 2016, aggression emerged in Kampala between Ugandan and Kenyan prostitutes. The Kenyan prostitutes were charging incredibly low fee and the Ugandans were angry that the Kenyans were taking their entire venture.
Local leaders intervened to stop the fighting, and the Kenyans agreed to charge the same price as the Ugandans.
Two Kenyan prostitutes were injured. In an attempt to stop the influx of Kenyan prostitutes, the authorities planned to charge a registration fees.
CEWIGO adds voice.
Noreen Nampewo – Program Officer with Centre for Women in Governance [CEWIGO], a Ugandan organization known for promoting peace and security of women, says they have lobbied, and advocated for increased awareness on women peace and security in the country.
She notes that they work with refugees’ women, leaders, common woman, Gender Base Violence Survivors from any women groups like sex workers.
This, she says sex workers under their umbrella body Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy [WONETH]
“We reach out to girls in higher institutions of learning through planned outreaches, empowerment skills, mentor-ship training among others,” Ms Noreen added.
Prostitution at public Universities.
Evelyn Natasha [sir name not real one], a university student at Kyambogo University in Kampala says she has been able to meet other basic needs because of prostitution.
Natahsa, 26, and a second year student of Business Administration [bachelors degree] added she doesn’t regret selling herself for extra money.
“I come from a poor family and it’s my uncle paying my tuition. During my first year at campus, I had a roommate who taught me to do it. We would go to different clubs in Kampala like Club Ambiance, dance and hook loaded men. I became addicted to it,” she told our journalist.
Like any other women feeling stressed because she can’t live without enough money, the 26 year old university student encourages her sex mate to fear nothing.
“As long as you’re ready to tell him “put the condom on”, do not shy. This is risky but I believe I have kept myself and I’m safe with no virus,” she comfortably says.
And whereas she has said she can’t be enjoyed without condom on, Natasha reveals that in early 2018 she conceived and on realization she had to abort.
To her, it was not possible to study, carry on with prostitution and take care of the baby at the same time.
“I had a lengthy deep thought whether it was possible to keep the pregnancy. But on the contrary, I would lose money for the period of about 9 months,” she said.
For her, her customers are Kampala elite men, most of them she says work for big companies, government ministries, NGOs, among companies.
Kizito Anthony, 28, a student in his final year at Makerere University says he was poverty prompted him to look for sugar mummies in Kampala to sponsor his education; this was after he lost his only uncle who was taking care of him.
Kizito revealed that in 2016, second year semester, his uncle died in a road accident and it was from there that his hopes got lost. Asked why, he said his uncle initially faced pressure from his wife not to pay his tuition.
“My aunt was against me. She often told my uncle I would be of no help to their family once I get job, every semester I would report two or three weeks into official reporting date,” he recalled.
“When he passed on untimely, I had it in my mind that was the end of my studies and indeed it was. I had to take a risk that I never wanted or thought about while growing. I became paralyzed in my heart, nobody was there to help me – I approached a friend who introduced me to some loaded businesswoman in Wandegeya, Kampala and from there we grew intimacy,” he added.
Finishing his studies next year, Kizito added that he’s now guilty of what to do, revealing that his “wife” wants him to concentrate on her, something he’s now against.
“I’ve now a big task on what to do, who to be with as my woman. This woman of mine is on my neck,” he said with signs of confusion.
The 28 year old orphan reveals that what is left of him is to decide on if he must marry a woman who paid his university tuition for two years or to abandon her for a young but learned partner, in whom he can start a fresh life.
Having left a girl he was dating in his native home, he says that could be an option, adding, “she has been my best girlfriend and stood with me at difficult times besides being jobless.”
HIV prevalence in Uganda.
On February 23, 2017, United Nations in Uganda says HIV situation in the country needed renewed and urgent action.
In their report – young girls between the ages of 15 to 24 were already affected by HIV and that every single hour; two young girls were getting infected with the deadly virus.
The report further unveiled a shocking date, indicating that HIV prevalence among adolescent females stood at 9.1 percent, 1.8 percent above entire national percentage of 7.1.
The country loses 76 people to AIDS related illnesses daily and 230 get infected with the deadly virus each day. About 83260 die of it annually as per 2017 statistics.
“The work of the Global Review Panel cannot be carried out in Geneva alone; hence I am grateful that partners engaged in this inclusive consultation. Uganda has an important story to tell. Country perspectives need to be better understood in order to refine and reinforce the work of the unique Joint Programme on AIDS,” Swedish Ambassador to Uganda, Lennarth Hjelmaker said.
“Uganda as a country is committed to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 and we welcome action taken to review and re-invigorate the joint UN family to support us and realize this goal at the country level,” Professor Vinand Nantulya, Chairman Uganda AIDS Commission said.