Speaking to Mmegi yesterday, he said that organisations representing sex workers and men who have sex with other men like Sisonke and LEGABIBO were asked by government to participate in a study ostensibly meant to understand them better to ultimately help address the challenges facing them and reducing stigma. However it has turned out that sex workers and men who have sex with other men will be arrested and fined, while foreign ones will be deported.
Ndadi said that this shows that the ministry never acted in good faith. He said that had the gays and lesbians known that the study would be used to harass, detain, persecute, profile and deport them, they would never have participated in it.
The Ministry of Health recently embarked on a study to estimate the population of female sex workers and men who have sex with other men in Gaborone, Francistown and Kasane. The study sought to establish the incidence and prevalence of HIV infection, and other sexually transmitted infections among the high-risk populations.
Ndadi said that the groups at most risk were deceived to think that they would benefit from the study. "The forms that these people signed showed that the study would help come up with interventions that would address their challenges.
And only now we are learning that they will be detained and have all sorts of things done to them," he lamented. He expressed concern that the government continues to introduce unlawful and unconstitutional laws without consulting the people. "At the heart of the constitution is the dignity of people in the land, and these laws introduced by the ministry can only erode one's self worth."
Ndadi said it is an affront that BONELA has been identified as one of the NGOs to lead campaigns against sex work. "If they can expect us to lead such a campaign then they do not know us. We
stand for inclusion, dignity and respect for human rights."
In a document dubbed, 'A Draft of Strategies to Address Key Populations', it was agreed in a consultative meeting between police, immigration, the Ministry of Health and NACA that prostitutes will either be detained if they are locals or deported in they are foreigners for their 'disorderly and indecent' behaviour.
The departments collaborated to strategise on steps to be taken to address issues that arose from the recent study conducted by the Ministry of Health.
It was agreed during the meeting that police and immigration officers will engage in a six-month special operation to sieve out the culprits.
Locals will be arrested and charged accordingly, and a profile built for future references and appropriate referrals for medical interventions.
Foreign sex workers will be deported.
It was indicated that special arrangements will be made with immigration officers to be available during weekends when necessary.
The police indicated that it was often hard to prove the culprits' involvement in prostitution. This is because it is difficult to get tangible proof of prostitution. Punishment is too lenient as offenders are only charged with idling and disorderly conduct, which attract low fines.
In the draft document, the Ministry of Health intend to splash messages against sex work on billboards in strategic areas and on branded vehicles. Newspaper adverts, articles, posters, flyers, radio and television adverts on sexually transmitted infections and dangers of sex work have also been proposed. ARV treatment will be provided to local sex workers regardless of CD4 count so as to suppress viral load.
The director of the Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care in the Ministry of Health, Dr Refeletswe Lebelonyane is reported to have admitted the contents of the document during a media conference, but said that it is only a draft. The director could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.