Commercial sex workers turn cargo trucks into lodges in Elegu

Gulu leaders bow to food demands by commercial sex workers
Commercial sex workers

Amuru, Uganda | URN | The lengthy queues of cargo trucks in Elegu town, Amuru district in northern Uganda are facilitating illicit commercial sex trade in the area.

As a safeguard to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), all lodges in Elegu border town were closed in March. But Kassim Akule, the LC I chairperson of Lorikwor West village in Elegu explains that now, the illicit business is being transacted inside trucks as hundreds of cargo drivers arriving from South Sudan spend between two and four days awaiting clearance.

Following a spike in coronavirus cases from truck drivers, Uganda earlier this month resolved to only grant entry to truck drivers who test negative for COVID-19. The slow-paced testing process has led to pileups of cargo trucks – at times stretching over 60kms at Uganda’s points of entry in Elegu, Malaba, Busia and Mutukula.

On Sunday, Kenyan truck drivers protested against the holdup and what they called discrimination and stigmatization by Ugandan authorities.

One commercial sex worker said that some of the truck drivers have families in Elegu and because of the restriction imposed on them, they are only able to meet their sexual partners in trucks at night.

Amuru district chairperson Michael Lakony says that some of the truck drivers meet with the sex workers in rented grass thatched huts while others prefer to use their trucks as lodges making it hard to enforce presidential directives.

“And now since we closed the lodges and as the truck drivers line on the road, by evening time you find the women strolling as if they are going to Gulu town. And in the truck is where they sell themselves, inside.

Security cannot man and say; where are you going? It is quite difficult. The delay of the trucks to line along the roadside for 3 days is the risk that our community members are getting,” says Lakony.

The district Woman MP Lucy Akello, asserts that district leaders backed by security are finding it extremely difficult to regulate the illicit trade but said the authorities are liaising with relevant development partners to conduct intensive counselling among the sex workers.

Last week, the minister of Health Dr Jane Ruth Aceng rallied Amuru leaders to conduct comprehensive risk communication and community engagement to help mitigate the possible spread of the contagion.

Read Also: 32 sex workers suspected contacts of positive COVID-19 truck driver quarantined in Kabale

“Having been in the health sector for a long time, I know that sex work is work. That is what they call it. It is work. It is like us waking up every day and you go to your office. And they earn money just like you go and earn a salary or from a contract. Some of them are even married and the husbands know it.

Some of them the husbands are also sex workers. The only way to track them is to communicate. Let them know the danger that if you get an infection, you will take it to your family, your children, your parents,” she said.

Over 1,000 trucks carrying goods are cleared every day in Elegu. Government is currently running a TV campaign which urges commercial sex workers to stay away from the high-risk truckers.