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UPDATED: Nairobi County Bans Sex Work

Nairobi Governor George Aladwa
Nairobi Governor George Aladwa

Sex work in the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) has been banned after the Nairobi County Assembly passed a motion prohibiting sex work.

This comes a month after Kibra ward representative Jane Muasya presented a motion to the Assembly seeking to compel the county government to drive out sex workers ‘from the CBD and the county.’

The motion was reportedly passed today only restricts sex work in the CBD and not the County according to those privy at the meeting.

Section 153 and 154 of the penal Code (Chapter 63 of the laws of Kenya) prohibits both men and women from ‘living wholly or partly on earnings of prostitution or from soliciting.’

“I am deeply concerned that the enforcement of the provision of the penal code remains lacklustre and that commercial sex workers now undertake their lawful practise openly within the CBD,” said Muasya.

The motion was debated and passed by the MCAs after resuming assembly sittings after a two weeks hiatus.

Muasya called on the County Government to ‘move with speed’ and ‘vigorously enforce’ the provision s of the law ‘to deter the vice within the CBD.’

Other MCAs also weighed in on the matter with Mathare County Rep Oscar Lore arguing that those earning were trying to eke a living voluntary and that those seeking their services were doing so willingly.

Kamau Thuo argued that sex work should not be allowed as it was portraying a bad image of the city since those involved were ‘badly dressed which was wrong in the eyes of the young people.’

He said that those involved should rather be in certain designated areas which are not accessible to everyone.

He noted that they were ‘littering the streets with eyesore products which are used in the trade.’

The Daily Nation reports thus:

The deputy speaker, Mr Ken Ngondi, twice ruled in favour of the motion but backed down after MCAs loudly cast doubts over the vote by acclamation.

Only after a physical vote and count did the motion pass.

Male MCAs who had openly opposed the motion during the debate turned around and voted for it while some abstained.

Four women were among the 13 MCAs who voted against the motion while its proponents garnered 28 members.

Three of the members present abstained while the rest of the house was away.

The debate which culminated in the first ever physical vote in the House drew mixed emotions from the MCAs.

Some suggested that a building be put up to accommodate the sex workers after they are removed from the streets.

“I have no problem with the sex workers because most of them are unemployed. In fact, we should set up a building for them instead of leaving them out there in the street,” said Mr Kennedy Nyarumba, popularly known as ‘sirkal’.

Mr Manoah Mboko brought another angle to the debate when he suggested that the solution was not to push the sex workers out of the CBD but to marry them.

He added that the sex workers contributed greatly to Nairobi’s 24-hour economy.

“These members are cheating you Mr Speaker. Polygamy is the only viable solution. In fact, sex workers are of great benefit to some men who are constantly being beaten or nagged in their houses,” Mr Mboko said.

Mr Jack Ngare drew laughter when he said the world was a market and people should be allowed to sell what they possessed.

He alluded to a story in the Bible in which Jesus Christ spoke well of a prostitute. He then asked any of the MCAs without fault “to be the first to cast a stone”.

The Minority leader, Mr Elias Otieno, who voted for the motion had called for the sex workers to have designated areas where their customers could find them using the internet.

The male MCAs drew much criticism from their female counterparts who decried the “moral degradation” in the Assembly.

The ban comes even as sex work activists have been engaged in round discussions with City officials and sex work groups to try and forestall the passage of the motion.

Former Nairobi mayor, George Aladwa had formed a committee to look into sex work in the city and the committee report had recommended designating places in the CBD for sex work while calling into account the police and city officials who were accused of arresting and violating the rights of sex workers.

The ban also comes at  a time when more than 100 sex workers are killed annually according to various reports by sex worker rights activists.

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About Denis Nzioka

Denis Nzioka is the Editor of the Denis Nzioka News Agency and Service. He is a sexual and gender minorities activist, researcher, journalist and consultant based in Nairobi, Kenya. He was named World's Top 10 Tweeters on Sexuality and Development.

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logo_square_whiteDenis Nzioka is a news agency and service based in Kenya and which collaborates with Kenyan, East African and international LGBTIQ, Sex Work and allied activists. It seeks to transform public opinion and social attitudes towards Kenya’s sexual and gender minorities community through grassroots reporting and community commentary and opening up forums for alternative opinion on sex, gender, identity politics and human rights.