Kenya sex workers ready to pay tax

Commercial sex workers in Kenya demonstrate to protest harassment by authorities and call for protection of their human rights in Nairobi March 6, 2012. JAYNE NGARI | AFRICA REVIEW 

Sex workers in Kenya have said they were ready to remit taxes to the government as long as they were recognised and their rights protected.

The Kenya Sex Workers Alliance (Keswa) Tuesday argued that they were in an “industry that controls massive revenue” which would otherwise contribute to the economy of the country if tapped by the taxman.

“There is a lot of revenue in the industry and we are ready to pay our taxes if the government decriminalises sex workers in this country,” said Ms Doughtie Ogutu, one of Keswa founders.

Their position came just weeks after Nairobi Mayor George Aladwa formed a committee to check whether prostitution should be legalised in the city.

The committee, led by assistant Town Clerk in charge of reforms Daniel Masetu, was mandated to analyse city by-laws that made prostitution illegal and advise the mayor.

However, until then, Mr Aladwa said frequent crackdowns on prostitution would continue.

The sex workers claimed they were in it by choice because they were adults and no one should condemn them, but recognise them as a way of fighting HIV and Aids.

“Who says that people should judge others? Who knows what people do behind doors? There’s only one being who should judge us and that is God. If we have sinned, it is Him who should say so,” said Mr John Mathenge, the Keswa Coordinator.

The Ministry of Health estimates that at least 30 per cent of HIV patients were sex workers or those who bought sex from them. The National Aids Control Unit indicates that another 15 per cent of new infections occurred among prostitutes.

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