Saturday, November 17, 2007

Uganda sets up red-light district

Special zones to control the activities of commercial sex workers are being set up in Uganda's capital ahead of the Commonwealth leaders' meeting.

Ugandan sex worker (right)Kampala's mayor told a Ugandan paper it was being done to avoid embarrassing dignitaries attending the international conference which starts next weekend.

Prostitution is illegal in Uganda, but sex workers operate freely in Kampala, especially in the city centre.

Prostitutes have confirmed they have been asked to move to suburb areas.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) is being held from 18 November to 25 November in Kampala.

Dignitaries will include the head of The Commonwealth, UK Queen Elizabeth II, and her son Prince Charles.

English lessons

Commenting on Mayor Ntege Sebaggala's plan, Local Authorities Minister Kahinda Otafiire said the relocation will be temporary.

"Much as they are doing their business illegally, the government will provide them with other operational areas during Chogm," he told Uganda's Monitor newspaper.

A prostitute in the Katwe area of the city confirmed that she and her co-workers have been told to leave the city centre streets.

"It [Chogm] has disorganised us so much because... we are being told to go other places and to bars. And some of us don't like bars, so that's the only problem we have there," she told the BBC.

The BBC's Sarah Grainger in Kampala says commercial sex workers, who usually pick up business outside the Speke Hotel and in the roads around the Crested Crane building in the centre of the city, are being asked to move to other areas like the lively suburbs of Kabalagala and Ntinda.

According to residents in central Kampala, the number of sex workers usually seen along the main city streets has drastically reduced this week.

Kampala's population is expected to swell temporarily as 53 heads of state and around 5,000 delegates descend on the city for the summit.

Prostitutes in the city say they been preparing for an influx of foreign clients.

One told the BBC they had been taking English lessons and have put up their prices for a full night from around $60 (£30) to $100 (£50).

BBC NEWS | Africa | Uganda sets up red-light district