Category Archives: Civil Society

Malawi to prioritise gender-based messages in response to HIV and TB.


In Malawi, a new civil society charter to tackle HIV and TB is prioritising gender-based messages to help change people’s behaviour.


Malawi is the third country to set up such a charter in response to the Global Fund’s new funding model.


Working with men


According to the Malawi Demographic and Health Survey, data shows that in 2013 men were disproportionately likely to report having more than one sexual partner (9.2%) compared to women (0.7%).


To address this, non-governmental organisations well placed to promote community dialogue and carry out activities involving theatre for development, role models, and working with families, schools and churches.


The primary target group for such activities is men, but there will also be a focus on raising awareness of the risks of having multiple sexual partners with girls and young women.


Civil society intends to measure the impact of this activity through an increased number of men testing for HIV, men who seek circumcision, couples testing together and men using condoms.


Empowerment of women and girls


Poverty greatly affects the ability of young women to make choices about their behaviour. The charter prioritizes a two-pronged strategy to support young women through access to information and economic empowerment.


This means combatting issues of early child marriage, gender-based violence and transactional sex, which are all shown to be related to poverty and the economic circumstances of young women. Civil society organisations supporting the charter intend to scale up activities relating to village savings and loans associations for women.


This work will focus on young women aged 15 to 24. The charter has identified border towns and some lakeshore towns as hot spots where support for affected communities are needed and where impact will be greatest.


The impact of this activity will be measured in the short-term through the number of women engaged in village savings and loans schemes and fewer child marriages, and in the longer term through bylaws restricting child marriages.


Condom promotion


In Malawi, 80% of new HIV infections occur among partners in stable relationships (National AIDS Commission, 2012). This can be explained, in part, by negative perceptions about condom use within long-term relationships.


Work to address this issue will focus on rural women, as the issue of gender norms and power imbalances make it difficult for women to negotiate or introduce condom use within their relationship, especially the female condom.


The charter recommends the activities to be carried out in remote rural areas, as a three year programme from May 2014 – May 2017 with gathering people to sensitize on condom promotion, media reporting, education and communication campaigns, peer education as some of the activities.


One of the ways in which civil society will measure impact of this intervention will be through monitoring the number of rural women using the female condom.


Availability and accessibility


Condom use is higher in urban areas than it is in rural regions of Malawi and this can be partially explained by the fact that health centres and hospitals are some of the only places where condoms can be accessed in rural areas, yet evidence shows bottle stores are much more popular places to get condoms, especially among groups most at risk of HIV such as sex workers (FPAM & UNFPA, 2011).


Civil society intends to increase condom distribution points and lobby different community and religious leaders around accepting use of condoms. It will also pair access to condoms with lubricants, particularly for key populations such as men who have sex with men. A three year programme is expected to start from 2014 up to 2017, with focus on marginalised people such as rural women and people with disabilities.


Key populations


There is a need to scale up existing programmes targeting groups most at risk of HIV. Creating demand for health services among such populations is a high priority because data shows HIV prevalence among sex workers in Malawi is 70.7% (National AIDS Commission, 2012) and 15.4% among men who have sex with men (“HIV among men who have sex with men in Malawi” Wirtz et al., 2013).


Civil society is best placed to access people most at risk of HIV through peer education and outreach work. The target group will be primarily men who have sex with men and sex workers, though prisoners are also identified as a key population in this context, especially in connection to their vulnerability to TB. People with disabilities and refugees were also identified.


The outcome will be measured by reductions in HIV prevalence and increases in health seeking behaviour among key populations.


CLICK HERE to view the Malawi Civil society Priorities Charter


Image: Members of the market theatre group perform an HIV awareness drama to village members, Chipemberemchere, Malawi
© Nell Freeman for International HIV/AIDS Alliance
By Owen Nyaka
April 23. 2014


India court recognises transgender people as third gender.

India women AIDS Accountability International Transgender

India's Supreme Court has recognised transgender people as a third gender, in a landmark ruling.

"It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," it said in granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

It ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities.

According to one estimate, India has about two million transgender people.

In India, a common term used to describe transgender people, transsexuals, cross-dressers, eunuchs and transvestites is hijra.

Campaigners say they live on the fringes of society, often in poverty, ostracised because of their gender identity. Most make a living by singing and dancing or by begging and prostitution.


Rights groups say they often face huge discrimination and that sometimes hospitals refuse to admit them.

They have been forced to choose either male or female as their gender in most public spheres.

'Proud Indian'

"Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue," Justice KS Radhakrishnan, who headed the two-judge Supreme Court bench, said in his ruling on Tuesday.

"Transgenders are also citizens of India" and they must be "provided equal opportunity to grow", the court said.

"The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender."

The judges asked the government to treat them in line with other minorities officially categorised as "socially and economically backward", to enable them to get quotas in jobs and education.

"We are quite thrilled by the judgement," Anita Shenoy, lawyer for the petitioner National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa), told the BBC.

"The court order gives legal sanctity to the third gender. The judges said the government must make sure that they have access to medical care and other facilities like separate wards in hospitals and separate toilets," she said.

Prominent transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, who was among the petitioners in the case, welcomed the judgement, saying the community had long suffered from discrimination and ignorance in the traditionally conservative country, reports the Agence France-Presse news agency.

"Today, for the first time I feel very proud to be an Indian," Ms Tripathi told reporters outside the court in Delhi.

In 2009, India's Election Commission took a first step by allowing transgenders to choose their gender as "other" on ballot forms.

But India is not the first country to recognise a third gender. Nepal recognised a third gender as early as in 2007 when the Supreme Court ordered the government to scrap all laws that discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And last year, Bangladesh also recognised a third gender.

Tuesday's ruling comes after the Supreme Court's decision in December which criminalised gay sex by reversing a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court order which had decriminalised homosexual acts.

According to a 153-year-old colonial-era law – Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code – a same-sex relationship is an "unnatural offence" and punishable by a 10-year jail term.

Legal experts say Tuesday's judgement puts transgender people in a strange situation: on the one hand, they are now legally recognised and protected under the Constitution, but on the other hand they may be breaking the law if they have consensual gay sex.

By Yogita Limaye

15 April 2014


US and EU push Africans once more on abortion and homosexuality.


UN AIDS Accountability InternationalNEW YORK, April 11, 2014 ( – Africans are crying foul after wealthy Western countries ambushed them with a draft resolution that re-opens the troublesome issues of abortion and homosexuality in UN negotiations.


“You have set a precedent here that will not be forgotten,” said a representative from Cameroon at a briefing three weeks ago. Western countries have proposed a resolution for the annual UN Commission on Population and Development that surreptitiously endorses abortion and homosexuality, even though Africans asked to avoid those controversies.


The U.S., European and some Latin countries are increasingly insistent on homosexuality and abortion ahead of negotiations over a new UN development agenda in September, desperate to include homosexuality and abortion in future development efforts.
Africans for their part don’t want to be pressured on these issues, and have repeatedly stated that these are matters best left to countries individually.


When powerful western governments made their intentions for the resolution known, the Africans on the commission were furious.


The resolution includes references to regional agreements that touch on abortion and sexual orientation and gender identity—contentious issues that do not enjoy universal support at the United Nations. It was prepared by Uruguay, which is chairing the commission this year.


During negotiations this week the Africans repeated their position.


They don’t want a resolution to touch on substantive issues. They would rather have a resolution that defers to the UN General Assembly with regards to abortion and homosexuality in UN development policies.


In 2010 the General Assembly re-committed countries to the development policies agreed to at the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, and clearly announced that it would not re-negotiate those policies. This year marks the 20thanniversary of the seminal development scheme that made sexual and reproductive health a UN development issue.

The Cairo conference dealt with sexual and reproductive health, but did not include homosexual rights or a right to abortion.
African countries and other developing nations are adamant, now as in 2010, that the Cairo policies should not be re-negotiated or re-interpreted to include abortion and homosexuality.


They are worried about re-opening sensitive issues like sexual rights, abortion and homosexuality. The Cairo policies could not have been adopted had they included such rights, and the issues are still controversial 20 years later.


In fact, no UN treaty or political document recognizes homosexuality or abortion as rights. The General Assembly has been conspicuously silent on these issues because so many countries still have laws that prohibit and restrict abortion as well as laws that punish sodomy.


Together with key allies in Asia and Latin America, Western countries insist that the UN framework must recognize homosexuality and abortion. It is a human rights issue to them.


The commission comes on the heels of another UN conference where Western countries had to twist arms in order to get their way with the Africans. It remains to be seen how far they are willing to go this time around.


All indications are that Western governments have invested heavily in this meeting. Several of the UN officials and government officials that negotiated the Cairo agreement 20 years ago are at UN headquarters. Abortion groups and UN agencies are also out in force raising the issue of abortion and homosexuality at every turn.


By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
10 April 2014


African Leaders Challenged to Address Key Populations

AIDS Accountability Chissano ICPD

JOHANNESBURG, (SAfAIDS Media Desk) – Former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano has challenged African Leaders to ensure that their citizens access information and services that reflect  their sexual and reproductive health needs. He said this while giving a Keynote Address at aTweet@able Regional Policy Dialogue on Integrated  Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV Services for Key Populations in East and Southern Africa in Johannesburg today.


In his opening address Former President Chissano emphasised the importance of guaranteeing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for key populations in the post 2015 development agenda. He highlighted the need for leaders in various spectrums to join him in championing the rights of minority groups across the continent to access SRHR services.


President Chissano said that strategic plans of multiple countries in Africa include prioritizing key populations in the fight against HIV and AIDS and ensuring equal and easy access to SRHR services. The involvement of leaders, the community and individuals in policy suggestions will ensure that 2015 development goals are met.


The dialogue is providing  a platform for discussions on the increasing numbers of contraction and transmission of HIV within minority groups and key populations. The leaders explored how they can work together with organisations and individuals to reduce negative attitudes and encourage those in power to take charge of the protection of the rights of minority groups.


Participants to the dialogues include representatives from the South African Health ministry, MP’s from Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe,  the AU, UNAIDS, SADC, funding partners among others.


The key message being advocated for is Leadership is Protecting All. President Chissano ended his address with the words ‘’Leadership is Protecting All. Protecting All is Leadership”.


The tweetable dialogue offered a chance for participants outside the venue to join in the panel discussions on SRHR and interact with policy makers. The dialogues also provided an opportunity for minority persons to get connected with organisations and leaders; they could also learn how the others across the continent are dealing with healing, HIV/AIDS and sexual health.


Join the conversations on twitter by following us @SAfAIDS and tag us on #SRHR4kepops. Have your say.


Contact SAfAIDS Media Desk


Kenyan women unite to increase access to maternal and child health.

AAI Kenyan women

More than 100 leaders and representatives of women’s rights organizations from across Kenya came together on 24 March in Nairobi to discuss ways to stop new HIV infections among children by 2015 and improve the health of mothers in the country.  

The women’s rights leaders meeting was co-organized by UNAIDS, UNDP, the National AIDS Control Council, the National AIDS and STI Control Programme and  the Community Advocacy and Awareness (CRAWN) Trust. The event aimed to accelerate the momentum started by the First Lady of Kenya Margaret Kenyatta through the Beyond Zero campaign—an initiative to end mother-to-child transmission and AIDS-related maternal deaths in Kenya.

Speaking at the meeting, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Jan Beagle applauded the First Lady’s personal commitment and stressed that for UNAIDS, gender equality and human rights—including sexual and reproductive health rights—are non-negotiable elements to ensure effective HIV and health responses.

Government figures show that in Kenya AIDS-related illnesses account for one in five maternal deaths and 100 000 children under the age of 5 years died from preventable causes in 2012. According to WHO figures, Kenya currently dedicates 6% of its national budget—less than half of the 15% Abuja Declaration target—to the health sector. 


“We need to leverage synergies across movements, bringing together the capacity and innovation of the AIDS response with movements to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls."
Jan Beagle, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director

“Our involvement as the women’s movement is a game changer and will catalyse actions needed to bring the necessary changes and accelerate the achievement of the Beyond Zero campaign goals.”
Daisy Amdany, CRAWN Trust Executive Director

26 March 2014 

Collective message from feminists on Post 2015 proposes alternative models of development

newsletter march

Feminists from around the world have released a vision of the world that millions of us seek, it proposes an alternative model of development that upholds peace, security, equality and human rights for all and for the wellbeing of nature and of the planet in the coming decades.


To date more than 340 international, regional and national organizations in 143 countries have endorsed the Feminist Declaration for Post 2015, which calls for economic, social and ecological justice with a strong focus on gender. This collective message sends a clear message to all bodies, especially the United Nations to commit to a truly transformative new development agenda.


More than sixty women's, young people´s, indigenous, development, human rights, and LGBT networks contributed to the drafting of this statement and it is of use to civil society in our advocacy in the coming years.


Organised by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), the International Planned Parenthood Federation – Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR), the Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice Alliance (RESURJ), and Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), a Feminist Strategy Meeting on Post 2015 took place in Tarrytown, NYC in February 2014.


Just after the 8th session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the meeting brought together over 60 representatives of feminists and women’s rights organisations from around the world. Networks, sexual and reproductive health and rights, human rights, governance, gender, violence, peacekeeping, environment, agriculture, economic and education groups were all represented.


For more information, to view the endorsements and read the full text of the declaration, click here.


If you have not done so already, please write to to endorse.


Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality Law Challenged – Petitioners Say Law Violates Constitution, International Law.



Nairobi — A diverse group of Ugandan individuals and nongovernmental organizations filed a constitutional challenge to the Anti-Homosexuality Act on March 11, 2014. President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill into law on February 24.


"Uganda's constitution explicitly protects basic human rights for all," said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher. "The anti-homosexuality law completely defies Uganda's constitution and its legal obligations under international law, so this challenge is a crucial step to ensure that the law is removed from the books."


The challenge argues that the new law is overly broad and unconstitutional on multiple grounds, including by violating Ugandans' rights to equality before the law without discrimination, as well as their rights to privacy, freedom of expression, thought, assembly, association, and civic participation. The petitioners contend that the law encourages homophobia and stigmatization and contravenes the government's obligations to respect the rights guaranteed under international human rights treaties that Uganda has ratified. Furthermore, the petitioners request an injunction against enforcement of the law while the challenge is pending.


Uganda's penal code already criminalizes "carnal knowledge against the order of nature," but the new law goes much farther, criminalizing various forms of same-sex conduct, including "touching with the intent to commit homosexuality." It also criminalizes keeping "a house, room, set of rooms or place of any kind for purposes of homosexuality" and engaging in the undefined "promotion of homosexuality." Human Rights Watch has urged the government to repeal the law. It has urged donors to carefully review their support to Uganda to assess any potentially negative impact as a result of the law given its sweeping criminalization of all forms of "promotion of homosexuality," which threatens legitimate human rights and public health work.


The petitioners include several prominent Ugandans, including a law professor, one current and one former member of parliament, a journalist, a medical doctor, three LGBTI activists, and two nongovernmental organizations, one working on a range of human rights issues and one focused on the right to health.


Given that hearings before the Constitutional Court can be delayed for several years, the court should schedule the case for hearing expeditiously.


By Human Rights Watch

11 March 2014

Quiet diplomacy faulted for Africa’s anti-gay laws


DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Last month, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met in his office with a team of U.S.-based rights activists concerned about legislation that would impose life sentences for some homosexual acts. South African retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined them by phone, pointing out similarities between Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill and racist laws enforced under South Africa's former apartheid government.


Museveni made clear he had no plans to sign the bill, said Santiago Canton of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, who attended the Jan. 18 meeting. "He specifically said this bill is a fascist bill," Canton recalled. "Those were the first words that came out of his mouth."


One month later, however, Museveni appears to have changed his mind, saying through a spokesman last week that he would sign the bill "to protect Ugandans from social deviants." Coming one month after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law his country's harsh anti-gay bill, which criminalizes same-sex marriage and activism, Museveni's new position highlights Western governments' apparent inability to temper governmental discrimination against gays in Africa.


The anti-gay bills are overwhelmingly supported by the general public in both Uganda and Nigeria, providing opportunities to win political points for two presidents eyeing re-election.


But international gay rights activists also blame donor countries, including the United States, which favor behind-the-scenes diplomacy intended to avoid a backlash that might come from more forceful engagement.


"Quiet diplomacy up to the final moment clearly has failed," said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch.


"We need a better strategy," said Julie Dorf, senior adviser at the Council for Global Equality. "We do believe that our government here in the U.S. needs to ramp up the potential consequences that countries might face for these regressive anti-human rights measures. I have no doubt that President Museveni watched very carefully what happened after President Jonathan signed the Nigeria bill. And the truth is, there wasn't much of a reaction."


Several human rights groups are urging U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to recall his ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria. The Human Rights Campaign, America's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, said Wednesday that Kerry should recall the ambassadors because urgent consultation is required before regular diplomacy can resume.


"The Ugandan and Nigerian governments' decisions to treat their LGBT citizens like criminals cannot be accepted as business as usual by the U.S. government. We urge Secretary Kerry to recall both ambassadors for consultations in Washington to make clear the seriousness of the situation in both countries," said Chad Griffin, president of the group.


Human Rights Watch and the Robert F. Kennedy Center have also called on the State Department to temporarily recall its ambassador to Uganda for consultations.


Dorf said the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, who recently went on a radio program to explain in Nigerian Pidgin English that Washington won't be cutting aid because of the new anti-gay law, should also be brought back for talks.


Other suggested actions include suspending visa privileges for officials behind the new laws; suspending bilateral delegations or exchanges in areas of interest to both countries; reviewing and potentially revoking both Uganda's and Nigeria's participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act; and revoking invitations for Museveni and Jonathan to a U.S.-Africa summit planned for August.


These moves, though, could further jeopardize local activists who are already facing mounting vigilantism that seems to have been tacitly condoned if not openly supported by security forces, say activists. Last week a mob armed with wooden clubs and iron bars dragged 14 young men from their beds and assaulted them in Nigeria's capital, the latest in a series of attacks that has Nigerian gays fearing for their lives.


In Uganda, Cleo Kambugu of Transgender Support Initiatives Uganda said transgender women — who often have a hard time blending in to avoid anti-gay hostility — have borne the brunt of a rise in violence that followed parliament's passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in December.


Though her organization does not have the resources for comprehensive monitoring, it has been made aware of up to 40 recent incidents involving mob violence, police harassment or both, Kambugu said.


She said the imposition of punishment by Western countries over anti-gay legislation could be harmful.


"That's going to make people hate (sexual minorities) more in Uganda. They'll say, 'You see? Our economic suffering is because of you guys,'" she said. "By doing that, you'd actually be strengthening these beliefs that this minority group is responsible for your problems."


It's a "tough dilemma," agreed Dorf of the Council for Global Equality.


"The truth is that most of the local activists in these countries are scared out of their minds right now. They're fearful of things getting even worse for them," she said. "They don't want the backlash which is inevitable when governments put more pressure, but not putting more pressure is making things even worse. We're really in a bind."


The State Department seems to be reacting more swiftly to recent incidents of anti-gay violence and hate speech in Africa. The U.S. ambassador to Ivory Coast was first to condemn an attack on the headquarters of that country's most prominent gay rights group last month. On Wednesday, Kerry responded quickly to the latest anti-gay rhetoric from Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who said homosexuals were "vermin" and that LGBT stands for "leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis." Kerry said Wednesday that "the United States is deeply troubled by the hateful rhetoric used by President Jammeh … All people are created equal and should be able to live free from discrimination, and that includes discrimination based on sexual identity and sexual orientation."


After Uganda's Museveni said he would sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which allegedly was largely influenced by the work of American evangelicals in Uganda, U.S. officials including President Barack Obama have issued statements of protest.


Uganda's position has not wavered. In a series of Twitter posts after announcing Museveni would sign, government spokesman Ofwono Opondo slammed the international outcry, saying the U.S. is a "bully" and that "poor people have rights." He said those opposed to the bill should challenge it in court after it is signed into law.


Burnett said the bill's language against the "promotion" of homosexuality fits a broader pattern of Museveni's government undermining human rights by threatening nongovernment organizations, shutting down media outlets and attacking protesters.


Museveni hopes to get support from a controversial report by a team of Ugandan doctors that says homosexuality is a risk to public health that needs to be regulated "to protect the vulnerable."


"It is on the strength of that (report) I am going to sign the bill," he told ruling party lawmakers last week. "I know we are going to have a big battle with the outside groups about this, but I will tell them what our scientists have to say."


On Monday Opondo said on Twitter: "When the rant of gay activists is done over this bill, the world will move on."


Muhumuza reported from Kampala, Uganda.


February 20, 2014


Petitioning South African Government Step up for equality!



The Anti-Homosexuality Act signed by President Museveni on Monday, February 24, 2014 threatens people who engage in same sex acts with life imprisonment. It also threatens the work of organisations that seek to advance the health, rights and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. 


The Anti-Homosexuality Act creates an environment of fear, threats of violence and increased discrimination towards sexual minorities in Uganda. With the publication of names of people, there is deep anxiety of increased attacks amongst the community of sexuality minorities..


We also note similar laws in countries, such as the recent Anti-Same Sex Marriage Act in Nigeria, which undermines our collective humanity and dignity.


Section 9 of the South African Constitution offers protection on the basis of sexual orientation and guarantees dignity and equality for all in South Africa. South Africa’s leadership on this issue is particularly important to realising equal rights for all in the region.


We call for the South African Government to:

•           Issue a statement clarifying South Africa’s commitment to human rights for all and a foreign policy which promotes a human-rights based approach to minority sexual groups throughout Africa and the rest of the world;

•           Commit our Embassy in Kampala to provide support to protect the safety, rights and dignity of all fellow Africans at risk on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity; and

•           Confirm South Africa as a safe haven and confirm its willingness to grant asylum to anyone facing persecution on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity. 


Sign the petition to South African Government.

Namibia: Sex Workers Denounce Apartheid Era Laws

large_l_1img_1719-0303wk -14

SEX workers in Namibia have urged the government to repeal laws that criminalise their trade to help fight against HIV-AIDS.


Speaking during the commemoration of the International Sex Workers Day, which was celebrated under the theme "Sex Workers' Rights are Human Rights" in Windhoek on Monday, Nicodemus Aoxamub, the executive director of Rights not Rescue organisation said some apartheid era laws of 1959 and 1980 make the fight against HIV-AIDS among sex workers very difficult.


"Sex workers plan to work towards zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths which UNAIDS calls for but despite global partnership, such goals will not be achieved due to discriminatory apartheid laws," Aoxamub said at the commemoration attended by dozens of sex workers from all over Namibia.


"How can our government still have such barbaric apartheid era laws in an independent Namibia?" Aoxamub asked. Aoxamub praised Namibia's founding president Sam Nujoma for his call on implementation of programmes to eradicate HIV-AIDS during his tenure.


Aoxamub said programmes have been implemented where sex workers serve on the technical committees and key population working groups which are headed by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.


"These are the programmes that Nujoma spoke about and sex-workers are happy to be part of them," he said.


Beside the government initiatives, national and international organisations such as UNAIDS, UNFPA and donors' involvement in the fight against HIV-AIDS was also praised.


Rachel Gawises, the director of Voice of Hope Trust (VHT), said disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbaric acts which have outraged mankind. VHT is an organisation for sex workers based at the coast.


Gawises said sex workers do not have the right to equal protection under the law because authorities are preoccupied with criminalising the "world's oldest trade", and that this is a violation of the rights of all Namibians.


Gawises, who says sex work is a profession that feeds thousands of families, revealed that she started when she was 12 years old when growing up in a plastic shack at a rubbish dump at Walvis Bay.


The International Sex Workers Rights Day started in 2001 when 25 000 sex workers gathered in Calcutta, India for a sex workers' festival.


"It was their dream that sex workers own the day and celebrate it in their respective countries as their own," Deyonce Naris, director of Khaibasen Community Project from Keetmanshoop said.


Naris, a sex worker herself, said her community is also involved in the fight against HIV-AIDS contrary to beliefs that sex workers are only there to spread it.


All the sex workers' organisations said they give out free lubricants and condoms to sex workers as well as advice on HIV-AIDS-related issues and the importance of protection.


Beside the challenges of HIV, sex workers also face police brutality, transphobia, sexism, poverty and discrimination.


During the commemoration, sex workers shared personal experiences and also lit candles in honour of their colleagues who were brutally murdered in Namibia.


By Clemans Miyanicwe

4 March 2014