December 8, 2017 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
AdvocAid Sierra Leone and partners, with funding from Mama Cash, yesterday launched a documentary titled ‘Kolonko’ which narrates the difficulties and human rights violations faced by commercial sex workers in Sierra Leone.
AdvocAid is a human rights organisation that fundamentally believes that girls and women in Sierra Leone deserve access to justice, with their core goal being delivery of free legal aid to that category in society.
They also work across Sierra Leone to ensure that girls and women are aware of, and know their legal and human rights, and have confidence to assert them when confronted by the law.
Speaking at a presser at the British Council Hall in Freetown, Country Director of AdvocAid, Daniel Eyre disclosed that there are over 26,000 sex workers in Sierra Leone, and that ‘Kolonko’ is a Krio language used to describe sex workers.
He said the language sounds derogatory and that it reflects the social and economic marginalisation sex workers face every day in the streets of Freetown.
He said in the documentary, women discuss sexual, physical and verbal abuse they endure on a daily basis in the hands of their clients and the police, adding that the eighteen sex workers they interviewed made a plea to government, the police and public to accept them as citizens who have rights over their bodies and be free from violence.
He said sex workers were interviewed between the years 2015 and 2016, and that one of the interviewees told AdvocAid that she had no one to take care of her, hence she became a sex worker.
Eyre said sex work often put women and girls at great risk, stating that a sex worker at Lumley recalled being held at knife point by a client and that sometimes clients have sexual intercourse with them and beat them up when they try to fight back.
He further stated that despite suffering sexual and other forms of violence, sex workers are largely unprotected by the law and many do not report crime committed against them to the police for fear of being arrested.
According to him, some of the sex workers they interviewed narrated that they were regularly being arrested by the police for ill-defined crimes such as loitering or frequenting.
He said many sex workers claimed that the police abuse their powers by extorting money from them, while some have sex with them before they could be released.
AdvocAid and partners called on the newly appointed Inspector General of Police, Dr. Richard Moigbe, to ensure that his officers are held accountable for any abuse of sex workers, demanding that laws such as loitering and frequenting should be decriminalised.
Also speaking, a representative from Amnesty International, Emmanuel Sattie expressed delight for the documentary because it tells the story about young girls being marginalised in the country for being sex workers.