Sunday Tribune

Malawi drafts law to protect sex workers

- MABVUTO BANDA

MALAWI is preparing a law to protect sex workers against abuse by clients. The move could help fight HIV/Aids which has ravaged the nation for the past two decades.

Gender and Community Developmen­t Minister Patricia Kaliati said the bill was being finalised before it went to parliament to be passed into law.

“We want to take them off the streets, let them enjoy sex from their homes and protect them against abuse and Aids,” Kaliati said.

She did not say how the new law would achieve this, but denied that the government wanted to legalise prostituti­on in a deeply religious and conservati­ve country.

Aids in Malawi, the population of which is around 13 million, has killed over 800 000 people since it was first reported in 1985, leaving more than a million orphans.

Prevention work has lowered the overall prevalence rate to 12 percent from 14 percent, and greater access to free medicine has helped to reduce the number of people dying from HIV-related illnesses by 70 percent.

A leading human rights activist warned the government against legalising prostituti­on: “Malawi is a faith-based country with all forms of religions which condemn prostituti­on. Therefore we must not forget who we are, culturally and morally,” said Mavuto Bamusi.

But Kaliati said that the government’s intention was only to protect the interests of the sex workers. “This does not by any means mean that we are legalising the trade… we are just trying to empower this vulnerable group against abuse.”

Malawi’s major cities have seen an increase in prostituti­on in recent years with girls as young as 12 years found involved. – Sapa-AP

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