Infringement on the rights and freedoms of the Key Populations (KP) community increases their vulnerability to health-related challenges and puts their lives at risk, according to human rights activists.
Key Populations (KP) include sex workers, transgender people, people who inject drugs, and people in prisons, and others.
Speaking to journalists yesterday, Richard Lusimbo, founder and National Coordinator, Uganda Key Populations Consortium (UKPC) noted that there’s no freedom of assembly and right to privacy for such individuals.
“We have seen some engagements whereby people are just sitting down, having a party, and the police raids the place because they’re perceived to be sex workers. This takes away what is enshrined in the constitution that we are all equal be before the law,” he explained.
Immaculate Owomugisha, Head Advocacy and Strategic Litigation, Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) revealed that the discrimination of KP at health facilities denies them their right to access to health and care.
“The moment a KP person enters at a health facility and asks for lubricants, they’ll definitely be branded differently and they’ll not access services. If they access services, they’ll do in a very unfriendly environment,” she explained.
Owomugisha said that individuals are denied access to justice and fair trial, and are subjected to bodily tests without their consent, in search of evidence.
She further said that due to stigma and discrimination around KP, a certain group of people is left behind, hence slowing the progress in reducing the HIV burden in the country. She said.
“HIV indicators are telling us that we have more prevalence rates in the KP community, and yet they’re not getting space where they can really speak, and they’re living with us in the community.”
Sharing some of the unfriendly laws targeting the KP community, Waiswa Batambuze, the Communications Manager at programs manager at UKPC said that the Public Order Management Act and Penal Code Act criminalize sex work.
“We also have the NGO Act 2016 that makes most organizations that engage KP stay away from away from registration, and so their existence is not formal.”
Journalists have been urged to educate the masses and dismiss the myths and misconceptions about the diverse groups of people; like tagging them as devil worshippers, recruiters of young people in schools, having too much money, and others.
“For media, when you’re reporting, we need to go beyond the out layer. Police are interested in the out layer, but you’re the eyes and ears of the public. So if you investigate beyond the out layer of people, you’re able to inform the public about what people never thought would be,” Owomugisha said.