04.08.2004 Health

Stakeholders in health discuss ways to legalise commercial sex

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Accra, Aug. 4, GNA- Stakeholders in the health sector on Wednesday called for the opening and reviewing of Section 279 of the Criminal Code of 1960, which is against legalising commercial sex.

The said though commercial sex was illegal it was contributing to the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. They were of the view that if it was legalised it would help reduce the spread of those diseases.

The stakeholders made the call in Accra at a day's workshop to discuss and make recommendations to the findings of a research study on sex workers in Ghana.

They said though it would be difficult in enforcing such a law, it was necessary that such vulnerable groups including workers, were protected since commercial sex posed a health threat to the public due to high levels of STIs and HIV/AIDS.

Professor John Anarfi, a research fellow of the Institute Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) was tasked by Policy Project, Ghana, an NGO, and the United States Agency for Development (USAID) to conduct the research.

Policy Project is currently supporting the Ghana Health Services (GHS), the Ministry of Health and the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) to review the context and policy environment within which commercial sex work takes place in the country.

The final recommendations would help in developing an advocacy strategy and other interventions that would lead to an improved environment for sex workers.

They requested that in the absence of a law legalising commercial sex, other sections in the Criminal code, which give some protection, should be used until a new law was formulated even though it would take a long time for it to come to reality.

In all 30 commercial sex workers between the ages of 12 and 59 years were interviewed.

The findings according to Prof. Anarfi, revealed that most of them entered into the commercial sex at the age of 10 and those who entered at tender ages did so because they had either been defiled or received harsh treatment from parents and guardians before.

He said in most cases, the younger ones who were interviewed were pushed into the business by strong peer pressure whilst the adults were pushed into it by economic hardships.

According to him only one of the 30 persons interviewed saw commercial sex as disgraceful and would prefer another job. The findings also revealed that "seater" sex workers have a cordial relationship with the police while the roaming ones were always being arrested and often had to pay for their release either in cash or in kind.

Prof. Anarfi said the sex workers also complained of candidiasis or 'white' as the common STI affecting them, waist pains and pains in the genitals which they normally used herbs to treat.

Dr Benedicta Ababio, Programme Coordinator of Policy Project said programmes were in place targeting the male sex workers and the focus was on truck drivers and miners.

Dr Sam Adjei, Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) who chaired the function stressed the need to legalise commercial sex to control the spread of HIV/AIDS and STIs.

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