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Kampala, Uganda | URN | A sex worker-led organisation-WONETHA says sex workers are likely to be exposed to more vulnerability, abuse and extortion if President Museveni assents to sexual offenses Bill.

WONETHA Uganda says the new restrictions in the proposed law will not only expose the women and men engaged in the trade to more health risks like HIV/AIDs but will push them to operate underground.

WONETHA Executive Director, Diana Natukunda says although the Committee of Parliament consulted them about the Bill, they were surprised that it was passed with sections prohibiting commercial sex work.

She revealed in an interview that they had agreed with the mover, Monica Amoding to delete that section of the Bill. Natukunda called for the decriminalization of sex work, saying it is a reality that should be dealt with to help women who are forced into prostitution.

Though sex work has been criminalized under the penal code, the Health Ministry continues to group sex workers among the most at risk population in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. The Bill passed by Parliament also proposes a penalty and a jail sentence for whoever will be found buying or procuring services of sex workers.

Sex workers fear that they, or their clients, may be arrested by the law enforcement agents or will be engaged in risky encounters.

Some sex workers have in the past said they have been sexually abused by police men who demand for sex in exchange for their freedom.

Natukunda urges the President not to assent to the bill. She says Parliament and the Executive would rather address challenges of prostitutes whose number is on the increase.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Alliance of Women Advocating for Change (AWAC), Mary Macklean Kyomya says a lot of people will be affected by this law if assented to in the current state.

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Mary Harriet Lamunu, the Executive Director of Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) says that they had proposed to delete the clause on banning sex workers but this ended up in the bill. She however says UWOPA was able to strike a balance between men and women which was not the case in penal code where the law punishes only sex workers.

The regulation of sex work is a hotly debated issue in both low and high-income countries, and sex work persists with varying degrees of legality around the world.

In 2015, Amnesty International brought this debate into the spotlight by passing a resolution calling for the decriminalization of sex work, arguing that decriminalization is the best way to defend sex workers human rights against violations such as exclusion from health care.