Not By Chance, By Choice

Diana, 29 is a single mother of two in Kampala, Uganda. She turned to sex work in 2007 after getting a divorce and finding that her job at a biscuit factory was not enough to support her family. In addition to supporting her children, she takes care of her mother and two sisters. She also runs a small restaurant with five other women. Diana hangs laundry behind the restaurant. She often sleeps in a back room after a night of sex work since her home is on the other side of Kampala. Diana and Brian, a brothel manager. The brothel is composed of a compound with bedrooms and living quarters where many of the women and their children reside. Although not considered pimps, the brothel managers take a cut of income from the women. Rose age 22 and her son, age 6. He was born with an eye problem but can still see. They reside in the living quarters at the brothel along with her two other children, ages 4 and 1.A sex worker's child at the living quarters at the brothel.Diana also works with a local organization, WONETHA, that advocates for sex workers rights. The organization has 328 members but serves over 5000. In addition to worker safety, they are concerned about legislation that Uganda's parliament has passed which disproportionally affects sex workers. The HIV Prevention and Control Act, passed in May 2014 mandates testing for certain people, criminalizes transmission, and allows disclosure of status. Other bills have outlawed homosexuality and restricted pornography which was only vaguely defined in the bill.An exercise that sex workers carried out to find different ways of viewing their bodies. A box of donated condoms at WONETHA. Hajjara is a bisexual sex worker who works out of hotels. She grew up in a middle-class, Muslim family. At age 14 she was raped and had the baby. For two years she bounced around before turning to sex work and has since built up a client list. A basic package for her work starts at $50.  Hajjara says that a 'collective response' is needed to combat discrimination against sex workers with a goal of decriminalization.Hajjara's shoes collection.Hajjara and Williams, her fiance. They have been together for 2.5 years but cannot get legally married because of the discriminatory laws Uganda has enacted regarding sexuality. Williams is an activist working on rights for gender non-conforming people. He supports her work even though at times it brings out jealousy. She adds though, "for me sex work is work, like any other profession."Women in the city center waiting for work on a Saturday night. A bedroom at the brothel. Women typically make about $3.50-$7 depending on negotiations with the client.
This story was produced with support from the International Women's Media Foundation.