INERELA+ Botswana Engaged Lawmakers On The Rights Of Sex Workers

In Botswana, like in most countries in the region, sex work remains criminalized. Studies have shown that the continued criminalization of sex work means that sex workers — of whom the majority are women are left in extremely vulnerable conditions, and they face human rights violations on a daily basis. In an attempt to influence government policy on sex work, on the 15th of September 2023, INERELA+ Botswana led by the Country Coordinator, Edna Nurse Maine met with the Assistant Minister in the Ministry for State President in Botswana, Dumezweni Mthimkhulu to discuss sex workers human rights and issues around decriminalization of sex work.

Edna Maine took the opportunity to officially introduce the INERELA+ Hands-Off project, the main work of the project, its success, and its challenges to the Assistant Minister. INERELA+ believes that sex workers deserve equal protection of their human rights under the law and the continued criminalization of sex work makes it difficult to protect sex workers’ rights. Selling sex in a criminalized environment exposes sex workers to increased risks of gender-based violence from clients, intimate partners, and the police, and perpetuates stigma in communities.  Studies have shown that a reduction of almost 25% in HIV infections among sex workers can be achieved when physical or sexual violence is reduced.

Decriminalization is a necessary intervention because it will enable us to make a distinction between voluntary sex work, where a sex worker chooses to be a sex worker, as opposed to involuntary sex work, that is forced sex work or sexual exploitation, and human trafficking thus make it easy for the government to fight these crimes which have devastating impact in our society. The  Assistance Minister acknowledged the concerns around sex workers’ human rights violations and pledged his personal support on the work of INERELA+ Botswana around this issue. The Assistant Minister urged INERELA+ Botswana to work with other like-minded organizations and use available forums on future engagements and he stated that his office is always open for further engagements and sex workers. 

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