Commercial sex workers in Nakuru are up in arms over alleged harassment by county askaris and police.
Their protest comes a day after the law enforcers, acting on instructions of Governor Lee Kinyanjui, arrested dozens of prostitutes and locked them up over the weekend.
Sex work, like gay marriages and abortion, remain illegal in Kenya despite the strides Nairobi has made in its human rights record.
CHARGED IN COURT
The suspects were hauled to court on Monday and charged with creating disturbance and loitering in Nakuru town.
The court fined them Sh3,000 each.
But speaking to the Nation on Tuesday, Ms Daisy Achieng, the chairlady of Smart Ladies, the sex workers’ lobby, asked law enforcers to respect their work and treat them like other Kenyans.
According to Ms Achieng’, more than 100 commercial sex workers were maltreated in police cells over the weekend.
Tens of them complained of brutal attacks during the operation that left some of them nursing serious injuries.
“County askaris and police have no respect for us,” Ms Achieng said.
“The way they handle us during arrests is terrible. We are not criminals but working to earn a living just like any other human being.”
She urged police, national and county governments not to criminalize their work.
“We are about 800 of us working within Nakuru Central Business District and we have always strictly observed our schedules not to interrupt anyone,” she said.
“Our job is not easy and we face so many challenges. Police should stop viewing us in a bad way and instead use the right channels if they must arrest any of our members.”
Nakuru County has up to 15,000 sex workers who operate in the CBD, Kikopey, Salgaa among other areas.
The chairlady, however, did not dispute the fact that there are sex workers who are discourteous and end up mistreating clients.
She believes such incidents should be handled at a personal level.
“Those who mistreat clients and show signs of no respect to the police officers are known. Victimizing all workers won’t be of any help, law offenders should be handled as individuals,” Ms Achieng pointed out.
Police have been cracking down on prostitution in Nakuru since the town started its march to a city status.
Records show four sex workers were in April attacked and injured by members of the Nyumba Kumi, a community policing initiative, who accused them of indulging in immorality.
Pipeline and Kikopey are among areas that a good number of women have been mistreated during police raids.
Several cases of sex workers being killed by unknown assailants have also been reported.
But Nakuru Town East sub-county police commandant Ellena Wanjiru defended the operations, saying they are targeting “people loitering in town without clear plans”.
According to her, the raid did not target individuals or groups but arrests were made by police depending on the mistakes observed randomly.
MS Wanjiru advised that anyone with a complaint of harassment or attack should record a statement with the police immediately.