NEWS: Proposed Deportation of Sex Workers Sparks Anger

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (
Wed, 9 Dec 1998 13:14:58 -0800 (PST)

Note from Facilitator: While this article does not speak about trafficking
in persons, I know that many on the list are interested in human rights
cases involving state responses to migrant workers and public health
concerns. This article states that migrant sex workers in Kenya (who may or
may not have been trafficked into the country) have been subjected to rape,
harassment, extortion and theft from the police.

Inter Press Service

NAIROBI, (Dec. 7) IPS - A threat by a top government official to deport all
foreign prostitutes living with AIDS from Kenya has come under fire from
rights groups and church leaders in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

Addressing Nairobi residents during this year's World Aids Day on Dec. 1,
the Nairobi Provincial Commissioner, Joseph Kaguthi, said he had instructed
the immigration department to expel the women from Nairobi's bustling
Majengo slums.

"There is no way the government will let foreigners take over the lives of
Kenyans," said Kaguthi.

He was supported by legislator Norman Nyagah, who said: "If it's true that
they are spreading the disease, the government should deport them in trucks."

Following Kaguthi's remarks, Nairobi police mounted a massive sweep over
the weekend that netted "hundreds of illegal immigrants" in the city. The
foreigners, whose nationalities have not been disclosed, have recounted
harrowing tales of rape, harassment, extortion and theft from the police
who carried out the initiative.

Kenya hosts more than 170,000 refugees from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi,
Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Outspoken Catholic Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a'Nzeki criticized the police
action as a violation of the aliens' civil rights. "The police should
practice restraint in their operation, which was an infringement of
foreigners' rights. Not every foreigner is illegally in the country," he said.

Protests have been coming from all sectors of Kenyan society. "This is very
shameful for a person in his (Kaguthi's) position to make such callous
utterances. It's totally unacceptable and insensitive to people living with
AIDS," said Dr. Charles Maringo of the Kenya Medical Association (KMA), an
umbrella organization of doctors in the East African country.

"These remarks are an insult to women who are our sisters, wives,
girlfriends, mothers and grandmothers. We're just wondering whether this is
the government's position," said Maringo, in a statement made available to
IPS over the weekend.

"We urge such officials to learn and understand the facts about AIDS and
solicit expert opinions before making outrageous remarks. Administrative
threats of isolation and deportation do very little to control the spread
of HIV/AIDS. One cannot confine the disease to a geographical area," said

Dr. Elizabeth Ngugi, chairperson of the Society For Women and AIDS in Kenya
(SWAK), said Kaguthi's remarks should be rejected by Kenyan women.

"It takes two to spread the infection, regardless of race, religion,
culture or social economic status, regardless of their origin," said Ngugi.

She said stigmatizing one group of society will only make them defiant and
revengeful. "Anybody who insists on deporting women must lock up men in
their homes and deport them to their countries and districts," she said.

A Kenyan researcher, Prof. Ndinya Achola, also described the outbursts by
Kaguthi and Nyagah as unfortunate and unwarranted. "Commercial sex is not
confined only to foreigners but to locals too," he said.

The number of people in Kenya infected with AIDS is currently estimated to
be 1.2 million and is expected to reach 1.78 million in the next four
years. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts an upward trend in both
the number of Aids cases and healthy-looking HIV carriers.

Maringo said progress had been achieved in removing taboos associated with
the disease, in mobilizing the public into reducing high-risk activity by
talking freely about AIDS, and in the integration of infected people into
families and into mainstream society.

"Kuguthi wants to take us back where it all started. An infected person
needs sympathy and empathy, not isolation," said Maringo.

He said prostitution is a vice practiced all over the world and that women
are not the sole practitioners. "The Provincial Commissioner's (Kaguthi's)
utterances can very easily negate all the gains in the fight against the
spread of the disease. By his utterances, he is telling the world that
Kenya is still in the extreme denial phase of the AIDS epidemic."

Resentment to the remark by Kaguthi and Nyagah ran high.

"Deportation will not serve any purpose since HIV is already here with us.
The women have clients who I believe are locals. Expelling them would be
tantamount to infringing on their basic human rights," said Nairobi lawyer
Ambrose Rachier, who is the chairman of the Kenya Ethical Review Committee

What is needed instead, Rachier said, is for the law to be reviewed to
allow doctors to disclose to partners of spouses their HIV/AIDS status.

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