Sex workers and transsexuals met with DTA MP Elma Dienda to discuss issues affecting them, such as the stigma and discrimination they suffer when accessing health care and police services, as well as in employment.
They aired their grievances at a rare meeting between sex workers and a politician.
The group, accompanied by the director of Rights not Rescue Nikodemus Aoxamub, known as ‘Mama Africa’, Wings to Transcend Namibia executive director Jholerina Timbo and their technical advisor and consultant Sarry Xoagus-Eises met at the DTA office at parliament on Monday.
After being formally briefed on the purpose of their visit, Dienda asked the group what they expected from her.
Aoxamub replied that after 26 years of independence they have not seen sex worker issues discussed in parliament and that they want the pre-independence immoral practice Act abolished so that they can look to good policies being developed by parliament for them.
He said this would help them enjoy fundamental human rights.
“If the law is not abolished … there was already hate speech against the key population from national leaders. They must correct their mistakes so that the law can be abolished,” added Aoxamub.
Dienda said the Act can only be challenged when she has the group’s support as it will not help her to go to parliament with a beautiful motion yet the group has not educated the nation on the idea.
“We are sitting with a more than two-thirds majority of the ruling party in parliament. It might happen that I will bring in two motions and I will be outvoted there. Maybe they will not give me a chance to motivate my motion and I will be outvoted but you have to go out to educate the nation why these two issues are necessary. This is our first step – a motion or have an audience with the committee on gender equality,” Dienda explained.
Based on the group’s decision, which was to meet the committee on gender equality, Dienda advised them to write a letter to the Speaker of parliament as soon as possible requesting that they want to see the committee on gender equality.
She said the chairperson of the committee would set a date and talk to the group and assess the outcome of the meeting. Thereafter they will see if a motion is necessary.
Wings to Transcend Namibia executive director Jholerina Timbo indicated that they also face problems when seeking employment.
“A lot of people believe we want special rights when we say that we are not included in the constitution. But it is not that we want special rights, we want inclusion. The constitution says that we should not be discriminated against based on sex, creed and social standing. We want to see that there is no discrimination based on my gender identity and sexual orientation; that’s the inclusion we are talking about,” said Timbo.
Timbo said he understands they are entitled to the entirety of fundamental human rights enshrined in the constitution. However, those rights are violated.
“If I go for medical attention, nurses will be calling each other and staring. I am not a clown or an exhibition. That shouldn’t give the next person the right to laugh or make fun of me or call me names in the street. We tend to forget such labels have a psychological impact on human beings,” said Timbo, adding that the country needs to be inclusive of people with different identities and sexual orientation and not make them feel boxed.
He added that there have been people before them and there will be others after them, so ignoring the issue will not make it disappear but rather there should be talks and engagement to find an amicable solution.
“We are employers, employees, breadwinners and taxpayers,” said Timbo.
Aoxamub, who has been a sex worker for 36 years said that 26 years after independence as citizens and voters they have reached a point to engage and dialogue with parliamentarians to look at the way forward for fundamental principles guaranteed by the constitution.
“We have advocated for several decades for decriminalization of sex work in Namibia,” stated Aoxamub.
“Everything starts with the law itself. If the law is not corrected then everything will not be correct. We have looked into various legal documents that bind the national framework and there is a document written by the Legal Assistance Center in 2001 and released in 2002 titled Whose body is it?
He said they are also demanding the decriminalization of sex work and abolishment of the immoral practice Act because that Act was made by the colonial masters.
Aoxamub also said the municipal by-laws used against them prohibit their free movement. Aoxamub said they are still waiting on the outcome of a meeting they had with City Police chief Abraham Kanime.
He said because of the municipal by-law according to the immoral Act, they are in fear as Kanime has promised that sex workers will be arrested along with their clients.