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Upcoming events and current media coverage relating to sex work and sex workers.

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Park Street gangrape: TMC MP accuses woman of being sex worker »

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The stripper fighting for life after falling off balcony while attempting tricky lap dance move »

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Sex worker murdered »

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Consett lap dancing club may be closed down »

Ex-stripper defiant over ruling she was self-employed »

Playboy Fined in U.K. for Failing to Block Children From Hardcore Pornography »

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Mwende lived with her aunt in Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi, because her mom was struggling to support her and her siblings. As soon as she got home from school every day, she and her aunt boarded a bus to Nairobi, Kenyas capital. They worked all night and returnedearly in the morning, just in time for her to prepare for school.

Mwende quickly got hooked on the trade as she made enough money to meet her needs and even support her mother, who washed peoples clothes to feed and educate her five other children.

Mwende says hard drugs kept her awake during her first year of high school, although she didn't give her studies much attention.

I was in form one then, and on good nights I could make up to 30,000 [shillings], she says, which is the equivalent of $350.

The slightly built woman says life in the citys red-light district was a risky affair, especially for girls her age.

EAST AFRICA: Sex workers need help too

NAIROBI, 19 October 2012 (PlusNews) - In humanitarian emergencies impoverished women may turn to sex work as a way of feeding themselves and their families; without the usual health services and given the often low education of those involved, sex is frequently unprotected, exposing them and their clients to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.

"The needs of sex workers are often not met in emergencies. Sex workers are left out at all stages of planning," Sathya Doraiswamy, senior regional HIV officer for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), told IRIN/PlusNews after a September workshop on HIV in emergencies held in Nairobi.

"Due to their added risk for unintended pregnancies, STIs and HIV, they need access to sex worker friendly comprehensive reproductive health services including counselling services at locations of their choice… During emergencies sex workers need consistent access to condoms… Barriers to access condoms increase their risks of pregnancy, STIs and HIV."

In 2010, UNHCR launched guidelines on HIV and sex work in refugee situations; these are currently being piloted in three countries in the East and Horn of Africa region. The guidelines call for, among other things, awareness-raising and buy-in among the community and sex workers, identification and mapping of hotspots, protection for sex workers, provision of health services and the formation of sex worker peer-led systems.

In Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex, home to close to half a million mainly Somali refugees, training of peer educators is ongoing. "We are training peer leaders of sex workers on how to reach out to them, educate them on safe sex and refer them to where they can receive reproductive health and HIV services," Geoffrey Lutthah, reproductive health and HIV focal point person for UNHCR in Dadaab, told IRIN/PlusNews.

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Acrosss the globe, the word sex workers would obviously raise eyebrows of people with a strong feeling of distaste. But few countries have organisations which are dedicated for their welfare and really help the community to prove themselves.

Six sex workers, three from Zimbabve and three from Kenya are in city to go through a process of ‘community to community’ capacity building.

Male sex worker B John Mathenge from Kenya in an interaction here in Ashodaya Academy said, sex workers do pay tax directly or indirectly but still the stigma continues.

Sharing his experience in India and comparing the situation of the community in their country, he said, unlike in India the community is not united. There is no one to create awareness among them as the society concentrates discriminating them.

Regarding his observations in the country, he said, the community to community engagement in Mysore is something which has to be imbibed in Kenya.

He said he is proud to meet with sex workers here who are running their own academy.

He said, “We as sex workers are both the problem and the solution. So there should be nothing for us without us”.

Phelister Wambolabdalla (Kenya), a female sex worker and also an associate of Kenya Sex  Workers’ Alliance (KESWA), revealing bare truth of the problems faced by them in their country said, sex workers in Africa continue to face severe violence and harassment from police and the general public. “We sex workers are also human beings and need to be treated with equal respect.”

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With the current inflation in Kenya, the number of Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) in Nakuru, the capital of the most populated Rift Valley province, is rising steadily – a trend that began after the 2007-2008 post-election violence.

The dangers CSWs are exposing themselves to range from HIV infection to mistreatment by clients and other workers. Karen Gakii, 22, will never forget the ordeal she underwent at the hands of her fellow CSWs.

I learned Gakii’s story from a nurse and met her shortly after her release from the Rift Valley Province General Hospital. Gakii had come to Nakuru three years ago to work as a domestic worker. Lacking a job in Meru, Eastern Kenya, she left home to make ends meet. But mistreatment by her employer and poor pay forced her to opt for one of the world’s oldest professions.

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Tags: Kenya, sex work

Sex workers yesterday joined Thika Municipal Council workers in clearing heaps of uncollected garbage that has built up over the last few years. The sex workers, who turned up in coats and brooms for the clean-up exercise, said that they were touched by the pathetic state of the town that had won an award in 2004 for being the cleanest town in East and Central Africa.

The participation of the sex workers comes barely a week after the Nairobi Mayor George Aladwa changed his earlier announcement that sex workers would be taxed and allocated a free working zone free of harassment by police and council askaris. "We voted 'yes' to the new constitution presuming that prostitution had been put in the new laws but we were flabbergasted by recent remarks by parliamentarians that prostitution was illegal," said a sex worker who didn't want to be named.

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Tags: Kenya, sex worker

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