BHESP BLOGS

21ST FEBRUARY 2021---- It is February, and for many, they would love to call it the month of love because, on 14th February, the world marks Valentine’s Day. For most people, it is a day spent celebrating romance. But for sex workers, Valentine's Day tends to be the opposite. 

Jessica (not her real name), is a 38-year-old sex worker in Nairobi. She says that, contrary to what people might think, February 14th tends to be rather quiet for workers in the sex trade: her clients often see her on the days surrounding Valentine's Day — but rarely the day of — because people are often busy with their partners. They also don’t always have the extra cash, especially now that the effects of Covid-19 restrictions are felt by almost everyone in the economic sector.


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Until March 2020, a visit to Kisumu would be incomplete without stopping at Octopus club, a paradise for those who love the company of girls while catching a drink.

The place had an array of beauties that one would sample from and it was turned into a one-stop-shop for those interested in girls and who enjoy twilight activities……it was indeed the face of nightlife in the lakeside city.

It was akin to Nairobi’s Sabina Joy as well as other famous red-light district zones and “sex” was readily available for dozens of men who would throng it to quench their thirst.

Established back in 1978, curtains have finally fallen on Octopus Club, the oldest entertainment facility in Kisumu’s red-light district.

Bottom of Form

The twilight girls who readily offered company, comfort and sweet endings to men who thronged the joint be it for booze or entertainment are nowhere to see.

 “This is the first time in 43 years that we have closed the doors of Octopus. Business has been bad in the last few months and it is not possible to continue running it,” says McTough, the proprietor of the now-defunct club.


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A twenty minutes’ drive along the modern Thika superhighway will lead you to Kasarani area and a further ten minutes will bring you to a sprawling Mwiki residential area synonymous with flats for rentals.

Many that live in Mwiki are average earners who commute to the city using matatus or commuter trains that have a stopover in the area.

But whereas many residents of Mwiki would wake up every morning and prepare to go to work in the city, a group of four middle-aged women who have rented a three bedroomed house in the area would be going to their phones and computers to look for clients, who will in one way or another find their way to the house, or direct them where to meet to have sex or provide escort services.

The women are sex workers who have gone digital.

The world’s oldest profession is adopting a new business model; street-walkers are heading to the information highway.

Mary (not her real name) has agreed to share her experience with me on one condition, that I don’t expose her or take any pictures of her or the house she lives in with her co sex workers.

She tells me she hails from Siaya County and her parents know that she works in a big office in Nairobi since she drives a fairly good car and she affords life’s luxuries that would otherwise be associated with those who are employed and earn good salaries.


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By BHESP Team

NAIROBI, 18TH JANUARY 2020.

Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) today teamed up with Frontline AIDS, a charity organization that supports persons living with HIV, to donate dry foodstuff to cushion sex workers who are considered a vulnerable group against the biting economic effects of Covid-19.

The contribution which comprised relief packages containing maize flour, wheat flour, sugar, cooking oil, and green grams – is part of the nutrition support rendered to persons living with HIV in support of the national response against the corona pandemic.

While presenting the donations, ART champion and care manager at BHESP Ms. Lydia Otiso indicated that over 50 families have benefitted directly from the nutrition support and close to 2000 persons of the broader cohort receiving prevention services have benefitted from the distribution of Personal Protective Gears. “As a champion, I am greatly appreciative of the motorbike that this Frontline AIDS grant enabled us to acquire and so the effectiveness of differentiated care service delivery for our ART cohort can be increased for retention and for the greater objective of achieving the 95-95-95 goal of treatment prevention,” says Lydia.


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ADAPTED FROM AIDSMAP

A recent study published by AIDSMAP and analyzed locally by different research firms from data collected at seven different Sex Workers Outreach Programs in Nairobi from a sample of 33,560 women indicates that the number testing positive for HIV has dropped by more than two-thirds between 2008 and 2017.

While no single intervention can be identified as to the underlying cause in the decreasing numbers, it suggests that increasing HIV awareness, testing and treatment in Kenya are reaching this population of women, despite the criminalization of sex work. It is estimated that female sex workers in Kenya are almost ten times more likely to contract HIV than non-sex workers, so they are a key population to target.

The clinics use peer support and outreach workers to recruit female sex workers. When signing up to use the clinic’s services, each woman was offered an HIV test, which was used to monitor rates of HIV. Further information was collected by analyzing questionnaires that the women were asked to complete when attending. Only 78% of the women completed this information, as it was not mandatory for enrolment into the clinic.


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BHESP PrEP Work around PrEP

BHESP PrEP Work around PrEP

Project Name; Consumer Demand Driven PrEP for adolescent Girls and Young Women in Kenya

 

Project description:

Adolescent girls and young women (referred to as consumers in this project) of 18-24 years at high risk of HIV exposure will be identified for this project. We shall identify their influencers and networks. The consumers will be approached in their hang out/ workplace areas mainly salons, watering points, hotels, colleges, social groups/sites, etc. Awareness to create demand for PrEP will be key. Young musicians and celebrities or other influencers will be recruited and trained to create awareness and hence demand through their music, tweets, blogs and interviews. We shall generate messages that communicate the most information in the least time but speak to their wants, needs and aspirations. Communication will be done by musicians and other entertainers through concerts, music/road shows and other means as suggested by the consumers.

What African sex workers want

What African sex workers want

There are basically three things sex workers desire, and hope for

Rather than looking at the ethical, religious or personal stances on sex work, it is important to first acknowledge that sex work has borne the brunt of a highly stigmatizing society, and one whose sexual conservativeness has often clouded, and looked in aghast as those who freely, consensually, and of course, engage in sex work for money, pleasure or other mutual benefits.

A basic activist definition of sex work is ‘sex work is the exchange of sex, or other sexual services, in exchange for money, gifts, or other sexual services.’ I will not delve into the historical lineage of sex work in Africa, or even map the many ways society and others, has tried to regulate, punish, rehabilitate, and even kill off the sex work profession.

Internship Opportunity

Seeking Internship? Have you studied Communication, Journalism, Mass Communication or a related field? Do you have a grasp of research and are conversant with human interest stories?

Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme {BHESP} is seeking to recruit an intern to source and write news and feature articles advocating for the rights of female sex workers in Kenya.

The intern will also be responsible for documenting the achievements and challenges of BHESP. The articles that will seek to amplify the voices of sex workers will be published on the BHESP website.

INTERESTED? Send a one-page letter of interest, CV and two examples of your writing to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Application DEADLINE: 22 JULY, 2016

Thika Man Remanded In Attempted Rape Case

A Thika court has remanded an attempted rape suspect after failing to raise a Ksh. 300,000 bond.

The Court heard that on 17th February 2016 at Thika town, John Mwangi Irungu attempted to rape and brutally assaulted Esther*, who is a sex worker.

Irungu appeared before Thika Senior Principal Magistrate Abdulqadir Lorot and pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Lorot directed that the accused be released on a Ksh. 300,000 bond with a surety of a similar amount and set 28th April 2016 as the hearing date for the case.

Esther, while narrating the full account of her torment, says Irungu approached her as a normal customer only for him to attack her when she refused to have unprotected sex.

“I told him to use a condom but he refused, fought me and tried to forcefully have sex with me. First he hit me on the head and then severally on my back,” explains the 27-year-old who came within seconds of being raped.

Esther, a mother of two, says the blindly angry Irungu endlessly beat her up while shouting at her saying she must adhere to his sex demands.

“He held my throat and began to strangle me with his bare hands. I bit his hands and that’s when he left me. I rushed to the window screaming and calling the security man,” says Esther who joined the oldest profession two years ago.

Luckily Esther says the security man together with her colleagues responded to the unrest and broke into the room and apprehended the suspect.

“He was taken to Thika police station where he was booked and put into custody,” she says.

Esther went to Thika Level 5 hospital where she received treatment for head and back injuries and was asked to come in the morning to fill the p3 form.

“Despite the pain I was experiencing, I woke up very early in the morning and went back to the hospital, filled the p3 form and took it to the police station,” she adds.

At the police station, Esther says she found Irungu’s siblings who tried to persuade her to settle the matter out of court but she vehemently refused and vowed to proceed with the case until justice is delivered.

“The police officer in charge of the case told me that Irungu’s family wanted to pay me Ksh. 50,000 but when I remembered what I had undergone I vowed to proceed with the case to its logical conclusion,” she reveals.

Esther hopes that upon completion of her case, a harsh sentence will be imposed against Irungu to act as a warning to men who have the habit of sexually assaulting sex workers.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the subject.

Get in touch

       +254700777222 |742444781

        797885013

        Email: info@ bhesp.org

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