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Puzzle of Nairobi askaris demanding bribes from sex workers

While the Kenyan law prohibits men and women from living wholly or partly on earnings or from soliciting through commercial sex work, their rights are a matter of concern among some of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) in Nairobi.

Nairobi MCA Ms Waithera Chege is protesting what she says is harassment and extortion of commercial sex workers by inspectorate officers, commonly referred to as Kanjos.

The MCA says the 2010 constitution grants freedom to every citizen, and there is a need to examine the conduct of some of the inspectorate officers to ensure they are adhering to the Nairobi City Inspectorate Service Act 2017.

The politician requested a statement from the Legal and Justice Committee (JLAC) on the status of the implementation and sensitisation of the Nairobi City Inspectorate Service Act 2017 to officers in the department.

She’s also requested for measures the county is taking to protect residents including commercial sex workers from the law enforcers who have turned into bribe collectors.

She also questioned if Governor Johnson Sakaja was aware that some of the inspectorate officers were moving across the streets at night taking bribes.

Ms Waithera alleged that Kanjos taking bribes of up to Sh500 from every sex worker.

“The 2010 constitution grants citizens freedom. There are increased cases of arrest, extortion, and harassment of commercial sex workers at night in the city by Kanjos. This is an infringement of their rights and fundamental freedom” Waithera said in a statement.

The Speaker granted JLAC Chairman Mr Jared Akama seven days to investigate and table a report on the issue, though the move was opposed by Mr Akama, said that commercial sex workers are not legalized in the country, hence they cannot investigate an illegality.

“Commercial sex workers is an illegal business according to the constitution. The committee cannot investigate something that is against the law.” Akama said.

However, Waithera reiterated that anything brought to the floor of the Assembly is part of the law and that recently, the committee of the house investigated the harassment of hawkers who do business illegally in the county.

“The other day on the floor of this house, the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee investigated the issue of hawkers being harassed which has been illegal and you gave a report. Anything brought on the floor of the house is part of the law as per Article 28 of the 2010 constitution about the dignity of humans.” Waithera said.

Majority Leader Peter Jateso Imwatok stated that probing the matter would be tricky for the committee and that if they are required to visit the place and ascertain the claims, there is no specific place where they will visit.

“Allowing the committee of Justice to legalise an illegality is not fair. In case the committee is to do a site visit where will they go? Nairobi is not like the Netherlands which has a ‘sex city’ used to generate revenue,” Imwatok ssaid.

Ngara MCA Mr Chege Mwaura who doubles as Public Accounts Committee Chairperson said that it will be inappropriate to put the committee in such a situation which will taint the dignity and reputation of the house.

Nominated MCA Emily Odour said that the commercial sex workers would be benefiting the county only if they are arrested and arraigned in court.

“I conquer with Waithera this could be a source of revenue for the county if the Commercial sex workers are arrested and arraigned in court but because the inspectorate takes bribes and leaves them, then the county loses revenue daily.”

The Speaker, in his final ruling, asked Ms Waithera, who is also the Deputy Minority Leader to go and reevaluate her statement and bring it back for reconsideration by the Assembly.

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