ASWA Trains Sex Workers to Advance Advocacy to African Commission

Sex worker-led groups in Africa will take the campaign for decriminalisation and other human right concerns to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

This resolve comes after a second training by the African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) last week on how to engage with regional and international human rights mechanisms. Sex workers say they lack capacity to engage with regional and international human rights mechanisms.

The training held in Johannesburg, South Africa, brought together sex-worker led groups leaders from Southern Africa countries. The first training was held in September last year Nairobi with 17 leaders of sex worker-led groups in Africa attending.

Known as Champions, the training is aimed at building the capacity of sex worker-led groups to expand advocacy beyond their countries and to also bring attention to the plight of this key population in Africa.

The Champions is one of ASWA’s four strategic approaches to end the violence, stigma and discrimination sex workers face, as well as to create a social and legal regime that protects, promotes and fulfills the rights of sex workers.

Known as the Red Umbrella Strategy in ASWA’s Strategic Plan 2017-2020, the Champions objective is to advocate and ensure the voices of African sex workers are heard and considered in African spaces that create laws and policies.

In the recent training, ASWA sought the expertise of the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) and African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHER), both of which have a long history of engagement with the African Commission and other international human rights mechanisms.

Caroline Tagny of CAL and Berry Nibogora of AMSHER shared their organisations’ experiences in engaging with the African Commission over the last few years.

After this capacity building workshop, sex workers hope to draw up an advocacy strategy to engage with the regional body.

In most countries in Africa, sex work is criminalised. This makes sex workers vulnerable to abuse and discrimination especially by law enforcers, health service providers and clients.

Despite the requirement to report progress on upholding rights for all their citizens, Africa countries have gotten away with excluding sex workers and other Key Populations contrary to provisions in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The voice of sex workers is unheard at the African Commission, despite the fact that they face violence, discrimination and stigma due to the nature of work.

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