To arrest or not to arrest sex workers, city MCAs divided

While Sections 153 and 154 of the Penal Code (Chapter 63 of the Laws of Kenya) prohibit men and women from living wholly or partly on earnings or from soliciting through commercial sex work, their rights have become a matter of concern among some of the Members of the County Assembly in Nairobi.

Nairobi South Member of County Assembly Ms Waithera Chege has come out to protest over what she termed as harassment and extortion of commercial sex workers by the inspectorate officers, well known as Kanjos.

According to Ms Wiathera, the 2010 constitution grants freedom to every citizen, and there was need to examine the conduct of some of the inspectorate officers to ensure that they are adhering to the Nairobi City Inspectorate Service Act 2017.

The MCA requested a statement from the Legal and Justice Committee (JLAC) on the status of the implementation and sensitization of the Nairobi City Inspectorate Service Act 2017 to officers in the department, measures that the county is taking to protect the residents including commercial sex workers from the ruthless.

Also Read: Plight of Malaba sex workers as lack of condoms continues to bite

She also questioned if the executive side of Governor Johnson Sakaja was aware that some of the inspectorate officers were moving across the streets at night taking bribes.

Ms Waithera alleged that Kanjos have been accused of taking bribes of up to Sh500 from every sex worker.

“The 2010 constitution grants citizens freedom. There are increased cases of arrest, extortion, and harassment of commercial sex workers at night in the city by Kanjos. This is an infringement of their rights and fundamental freedom” Waithera said in a statement.

The Speaker granted JLAC Chairman Mr Jared Akama seven days to investigate and table a report on the issue, though the move was opposed by Mr Akama, said that commercial sex workers are not legalized in the country, hence they cannot investigate illegality.

“Commercial sex workers is an illegal business according to the constitution. The committee cannot investigate something that is against the law.” Akama said.

Also Read: Kericho leaders want culprits exposed in BBC’s ‘sex for work’ arrested

However, Waithera reiterated that anything brought to the floor of the Assembly is part of the law, and that recently, the committee of the house investigated the harassment of hawkers who do business illegally in the county.

“The other day on the floor of this house, the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee investigated the issue of hawkers being harassed which has been illegal and you gave a report. Anything brought on the floor of the house is part of the law as per Article 28 of the 2010 constitution about the dignity of humans.” Waithera said.

Majority Leader Peter Jateso Imwatok stated that probing the matter would be tricky for the committee and that in the event that they are required to visit the place and ascertain the claims, there is no specific place where they will visit.

“Allowing the committee of Justice to legalise an illegality is not fair.  In case the committee is to do a site visit where will they go? Nairobi is not like the Netherlands which has a ‘sex city’ used to generate revenue,” Imwatok said.

Ngara MCA Mr Chege Mwaura who doubles as Public Accounts Committee Chairperson said that it would be inappropriate to put the committee in such a situation which will taint the dignity and reputation of the house.

Nominated MCA Emily Odour said that the commercial sex workers would be benefiting the county only if they were arrested and arraigned in court.

“I conquer with Waithera this could be a source of revenue for the county if the Commercial sex workers are arrested and arraigned in court but because the inspectorate takes bribes and leaves them, then the county loses revenue daily.”

The Speaker, in his final ruling, asked Ms Waithera, who is also the Deputy Minority Leader to go and reevaluate her statement and bring it back for reconsideration by the Assembly.

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