Mombasa sex workers on Tuesday took to the streets to demonstrate against constant police harassment as well as the increased killings of their colleagues.
The group marched from Uhuru Gardens along Moi Avenue to the office of the county commissioner waving placards. Some placards in which they carried said “sex workers are human” with another saying “sex workers do not discriminate”.
They demanded that the government intervene and arrest the male clients who have sexually assaulted and murdered their colleagues. They also accused the police of illegal arrests and persistent sexual and physical assaults.
“The government needs to protect our rights,” one said.
Last month, at least three Mombasa sex workers were murdered with the police yet to make any arrests.
One of the women, Martha Simiyu, was found dead in a guest room at the popular Casablanca club two weeks ago. The twenty-three-year-old who was described as a quiet person was drinking with an unidentified man the evening before she died.
Her colleagues said they last saw her entering the club with the man who is believed to have been her killer. The police went on to find unused condoms in the room but have been unable to go further in the case.
Coast Sex Workers Alliance (COSWA) in a petition to the government said it was a pity that no arrests have been made in connection to the deaths of the girls.
COSWA director Benta Joseph demanded proper investigations saying they will take matters into their own hands should this not be the case.
”For how long should we be attacked before the state intervenes? When shall we put a stop to this inhumanity? We are your sisters, mothers, and wives,” she said.
A social worker attached to COSWA, Esther Nelima, said Mombasa has about 10,500 sex workers who have faced some sort of harassment by both male and female clients.
Ms. Nelima said the killings were just a tip of the iceberg and that some are raped, sodomized and senselessly beaten by their clients.
”These women undergo torture. It is time we stood up for them as they are also human beings.”
This is not the first time sex workers have protested poor police investigations into the killing of a colleague. In 2016, hundreds of sex workers in Nakuru town held a demonstration over the same issue.