No need to wipe out East Africa’s “Red light districts”

Posted on October 7, 2014 12:15 am

As 2014 draws to a close, some African countries are stepping up their campaign to wipe out selected “red-light” districts that have been cited as the reason HIV AIDS fight is being lost. The legendary “Koinange” in Kenya, “Kabalagala” in Kampala and “Manzese” in Dar Es Salaam, are some of the reputedly large red-light district in East African region dating back to the post independence era, are fighting for their lives to be closed down but I can bet that wont happen. As the so called ageing airheads up their crusade against the region’s “visible” sex industry gains pace, myriad of questions deserve to be fully thought out. Those organisation fighting HIV spread are doing a wonderful job but for some to suggest that “Red Light Districts” be closed is overstepping their mandate.In the East African mainstream media, that issue has gone unreported.In Tanzania, the forces behind the scheme are adamant about closing down the brothels in Manzese, Magomeni and Kinondoni, even going on public record that they are prepared to put their lives on the line to push the initiative through. While investigating the problem of human trafficking, detectives in Tanzania have claimed to have found a direct link between the existence of red-light districts and the cases of young women living near them ending up as sex workers in middle East especially Oman and United Arab Emirates.

The Churches that are supporting the idea have claimed that they hate to see young East Africans “living in sin” if the brothels continued to be condoned. What such buffoons have failed to understand is that history has showed that no human civilisation has succeeded in eradicating sex work and that is why is said to be the world’s oldest profession. I do support the national and local governments refusal to bow down to pressure from non governmental organisations and religious institutions to order closures of all the red-light districts in the region for what they describe as erosion of moral values as if there has been a time when immorality never existed. The sex workers and their pimps are there to spice up sex industry and will not go anywhere because it is a two-way traffic. You can kick out the sex workers and their pimps, but what about their clients and their needs?Prostitution boom because there is always a great demand for it. Even with the non-existence of red-light districts, procuring paid sexual services will always go on in any country. However, prostitution has become less affordable to the great majority, especially the lower middle class bracket, who were actually the largest frequenters of the red-light districts.

Prostitution in East African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania is divided into two classes. There is high-class prostitution which only takes place in places like Five star hotel rooms where clientele being the upper middle class. Red-light districts are very popular with the lower middle class because they afford the prices available and undoubtedly they offer East Africans who want sex without strings attached. Closure of those areas would make sex industry go underground and will be carried out in cheap hotels and even in residential areas in what sexologists call “guerilla” brothels may in all probability create new problems for prevention of sexually transmitted diseases through unsafe sex. Sex workers may find themselves prone to assaults and violence by their clients due to the fact that it will be an underground industry. Contador Harrison is for the idea that East Africa sex industry be “decentralised” within red-light districts for secure, safer, easier management and monitoring. No doubt in my mind that a more pragmatic and perhaps honest approach to Kampala, Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam struggle with the sex industry is needed.

Contador Harrison