New Initiative on Sex Work in Botswana

A new sex workers initiative in Botswana has included a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) component in their programme.

Sisonke Botswana, a sex work group currently housed by Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), joined the African Sex Workers Alliance and dedicated a week to the mapping of sex workers rights in Botswana with the aim to forming a coalition which will advance the human health rights of most key population (sex workers, transgender, MSM and drug users).

The aim of the coalition is to end human rights violations of sex workers.   "The reason we are inclusive of LGBTI is because they are sexual minorities and as sex workers we feel much comfortable working with them, plus they are also part of sex work”, said Kyomya Macklean ASWA’s regional coordinator.

She explained that sex work is widely misunderstood and is usually not recognised or accepted as a form of work because most of the time is considered as evil, deviant or immoral.

Sex work is mostly given the face of  women or girls but many studies have revealed that sex work cross cuts and does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, there are male sex workers and LGBT sex workers. “I’m not a lesbian but when a client is female I do service the client, actually the LGBTIQ clients are the most payers, they pay more than the so called heterosexual client” said Macklean

Decriminalisation of sex work and support from the civil society would build sex workers' capacity to speak and act for themselves through partnerships with existing organisations where sex workers are not given space.

“When we met with sex workers, some of them shared the stories of abuse and they did not know it was human rights violation as they felt as sex workers they do not have human rights” said Collie of Sisonke’s coordinator in South Africa.

Sex Workers have been excluded in main forums and this partnership will enable sex workers who identify as LGBTI to come out and also the organisations that deal with sexual orientation and gender identity to create a platform for discussion. They may fear discrimination as they already stigmatized for not conforming to the social norms.


ASWA is a Pan African movement and alliance for the rights of sex workers which was established in 2009 in Johannesburg South Africa, with 105 sex workers from different countries in Africa.


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By Skipper Mogapi