Economic impact of Sex Tourism in Uganda

A survey of sex workers in Uganda showed that sex tourism is an on-going business. Data on sex vendors was collected and results show that most of the sex workers are aged 18-45 and are mainly women – though there are men that are available for purchase by women and men selling to fellow men. The sex workers operate in different areas, with some vending right on roadside and dark street corners at night, others from restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotels, while some do the business from corporate organisations. These workers are scattered all over Uganda but mostly in urban centres,  joining  the business through  friends, relatives and others, choosing  the trade out of necessity to cope with life’s challenges. There is an estimated 150,000 commercial sex vendors in Uganda.On average, a sex vendor serves 3 clients although majority of them (especially young ones) serve 8-15 clients per night. This makes a total of about 90 customers per month per sex vendor, and confessions from all the groups revealed a figure between 80 and 100 clients per month. The sex vendors estimate majority of their clients to be single young men and  travellers; there is quite a lot of repeat purchase as the sex vendors ensure good customer care that men do not get elsewhere. Thus taking an average of 80 clients per month per sex vendor, there is a total of about 12 million sex purchases per month from 150,000 sex vendors all around Uganda. This gives a rough estimate of about 140 million sex purchases per year. In one instance while discussing with a group of sex workers in the rain, about 20 men bought up the service in a space of about 40 minutes. In another instance, one sex vendor confessed to having served up to 40 clients in one day – Easter celebrations day. Although festive days generate fairly more clients, sex trade does not generally have seasons – it runs throughout the year. Most of the sex workers use lodges to serve their customers and have specialised arrangements with the owners of lodges that give them subsidized rates and we found that most of the accommodation facilities that charged prices below UGX30,000 per night were being used for sex business. We generated several confirmations from both staff and physical checks of the beddings. All beds in these facilities  had mattresses wrapped in plastic bags to prevent couples from soiling and wetting mattresses. This practice was more predominant in the West, Kampala and Eastern regions. A sex worker earned an average of about UGX450, 000 per month and this could amount to UGX   67,500,000,000 per month from all the sex workers in Uganda or US$ 27 million. In total, about US$324 million exchanged hands in the business of buying and supplying sex for leisure and recreation. We generated close results when computed the figures using another method. A sex worker charged an average of UGX5000 per client and if she served 80 clients per month, this would equal to UGX400, 000 or US$288 million per year from all the sex workers in Uganda. We found that a sex worker looked after about 3 people, with at least 2 children and a grand-mother taking care of the children. A sex worker sent home averagely UGX80, 000 per month, paid school fees and medical bills for her children. The biggest challenges of sex workers included police arrests (for bribes and forceful sex), lack of regulatory framework to protect them against abusive clients and for proper management of the trade.There is need to regulate the business of sex tourism because apparently many Ugandans buy sex as a recreational activity and suppliers are increasing in number.  This is because the entrants into the market are increasing by the day, and customers are overwhelmingly many. Many small scale accommodation facilities depend on sale of rooms for sexual recreation, and the trade is popular among young female adults mainly due to lack of jobs and economic hardships. All sex workers interviewed were ready to pay up licenses and to help government streamline the business – quitting was not a foreseeable option to them.

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By nakamanya / Editor, bbp_participant

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on Jun 05, 2016

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