- The Gambia government has at first created avenues for prostitutes to ply their trade in the country legally by asking them to register as well as go for regular health check-ups. A few years ago however, The Gambia decided to get hard on prostitutes in the form of arrests, detentions and harassments, now causing activists to protest.
Gambian prostitutes themselves prefer to cry in silence, because going public means their security would be at risk. And knowing the conservative nature of the country's people, most people at night would associate with prostitutes but distance themselves from them by day.
At last, prostitutes are happy that right activists are holding brief for them. The activists were shocked about the mistreatment of 40 ladies of the night who were arrested from brothels by police. They were charged with violating section 168 of the Criminal Code. A regional court found them guilty and asked them to keep peace for 12 months if they don't want to go to jail.
Activists punched law enforcement agents for harassing only women and allow men who are patrons of the prostitutes to go scot-free. They accused police for arresting every woman found outside her home without questioning. After all, many of the women would be waiting for transport after they close from work at night, activists concurred.
In the opinion of a renowned activist-cum-politician, Amie Sillah, it is disappointing to see The Gambia abusing women after ratifying the African Union Protocol on Women. "Why are government security forces harassing women? They are called sex workers, it may be morally ugly, but that is their trade," Ms Sillah told 'Foroyaa'.
She blamed the police for not arresting the male clients of the sex workers. Turning to the Gambian society, Ms Sillah asked people to open avenues for women so that they don't go into a "dangerous and risky businesses" rather than harassing them. "If avenues are created and still people refuse to take them, then punishing them for risky trades can be justifiable."
Recently, a Gambian Magistrate ruled that prostitution had become unbecoming in the country, which equally contributes to the soaring rate of sexually transmitted infections. "We must therefore discourage the vice before it assumes a crisis proportion," Magistrate Moses Richards said while delivering a verdict on six sex workers.
He asked the six sex workers to keep peace for 12 month. One of them had already spent a month in state central prison. The court found the six guilty of illegally wandering around a bar luring people to sex in an immoral manner. They all pleaded guilty to the charges.
Most of the sex workers said the prostitution was their last resort for survival. "My husband is deceased and he now left me with the onus of looking after four children. Life is definitely unbearable for me", a court heard the plea of a sex worker.
Some of the convicts were ashamed to the extent that they could not hold back tears rolling their cheeks.
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