The number of children involved in commercial sexual work in Migyera town council in Nakasongola district is worrying.
A report compiled by Migyera Youths Development Center, a community based organization shows that about 100 children aged between 13-17 years are involved in commercial sex.
The commercial sex workers target commercial truck drivers plying the Kampala-Gulu and Juba routes. Migyera is a first growing town council and popular stopover for commercial truck drivers found along the Kampala – Gulu highway and a hub for commercial sex workers. The minors offer provide sex services for as low as Shillings 5000.
Shafik Kyagulanyi, the Programmes Officer Migyera Youths Development Center, says they identified the child commercial sex workers when they went to pick contraceptives during their outreach program last month. He says some of the children indicated that they were refugee camps and Northern Uganda, who joined commercial sex work after failing to get basic necessities.
Kyagulanyi says a few of the children are from places within Nakasongola and nearby districts who claim to have dropped from school because of poverty. He is worried that the involvement of minors in commercial sex might escalate HIV infections and other sexually transmitted district since there is not government facility in the town to provide them treatment.
Some of the girls said they are willing to give up commercial sex work once they find alternative employment. “It’s not where I wanted my life to be. But when there is no option, you do it and get money you to enable you set up a business,” said 15-year- old girl.
Godfrey Kabogoza, the Migyera town council LC 3 Chairperson, says their hands are tied, arguing that there is no way they can block the minors from joining the trade without addressing reasons why they leave their homes.
Kabogoza says as a town council they only stopped at passing by laws banning the commercial sex workers from using vulgar language, flooding the highway and restricting their work to the night to protect other children. He says some businesses like bars, shops and restaurants thrive on commercial sex workers, which makes it difficult to engage the community to stop the sex trade.
Kabogoza expressed concern that commercial sex work may worsen HIV infections in the area if government doesn’t intervene to support the town council to fight it. Dr. Agaba Byamukama, the Nakasongola District Health Officer, says they have tried to provide health education, free testing services and distributed condom to all commercial sex workers in the town council through outreach programmes.
He however, notes that they can only offer health services, adding that work of sensitizing other minors from joining commercial sex work and provide alternative sources of survival lies with the community department.
Byamukama says HIV prevalence among the commercial sex workers stand at 12 percent, saying they have advised those who test positive to enroll for Anti-Retroviral Therapy. The National HIV Prevalence rate stands at 6.0 % whereas Nakasongola, which falls under Central 2, stands at 7.4%, according to 2016 Uganda Population HIV Impact Assessment.
According to International Labour Organization, between 7,000 to 12,000 children in Uganda are involved in prostitution.