By: David Martin Aliker
On Saturday, Radio Mega 102.1 FM in their program Te-Yat invited me and a few media practioners for a talk show to discuss a report on Gulu male sex workers that is trending on Ugandan social media.
August 20th 2019, The Weekly Observer in their edition had this screaming headline:
Gulu alarmed by rising number of male sex workers.
Their reporting was informed by a news report from Uganda Radio Network (URN), an independent newsagency that supplies news articles and programs to over 40 radio stations and other media platforms in Uganda.
During the discussion, it was observed that while there is a possibility that this vice exists; the reporting was so poor and had glaring editorial gaps.
For instance, the journalist’s audio recording only interviewed a suspected pimp and not a male sex worker as recommended by the local council leader, who fortunately was on the radio program.
The pimp was also not open about their office location which he confirms exists; and the interview with the pimp suspiciously sounded stage managed observed a radio caller.
However, what is in contention is; “Are there male sex workers in Gulu? What does it mean to be a male sex worker?
An elder who never had a chance to call in, reached out to me after the radio program and asked, “Why was K-Road named K-Road?”
While I have used this word numerous times, I have never bothered to find out why that place in Pece Vanguard which is now along Cemetery road was named K-Road.
The elder argued that K-Road is an acronym for Kuma-Road. Kuma in Acholi means my body but in Kiswahili means a woman’s private parts(The V) which also happens to be her body, was nicknamed K-Road because the Acholi sense of decency not to keep mentioning the “V” word in ordinary every day interaction.
He further shared that in the past, that area was a busy hub for female prostitutes (Malaya) who preyed on male soldiers and police officers who during the insurgencies of the 70s and 80s were the only ones with money to invest in prostitution.
During “hostile business days” when there was less business; a number of this female sex workers preyed on young students who would go on a drinking spree at this hub.
These unscrupulous women with a strong urge for sex would invest in these young boys like preparing delicacies to trap young students. He emphasized that any meal with the ingredients of eggs was on top on its priority menu.
In some situations, these women even paid fees for these students especially the ones who were regulars. In other instances, they were motivated with pocket money or sugar for tea in school which was difficult to find.
These were certainly Sugar Mummies.
If this case study is anything to go by, then male sex workers are not a new phenomenon. What is different is how it’s being practiced today.
Now this raises the question, were these students male sex workers since they benefited from this exercise?
If yes, would you call a lady who is offered transport to go back home after a merry moment a sex worker? Would you classify any economic beneficiary of preferential treatment (gifts) from the opposite sex prior to or in the after math of a sexual encounter sex worker?
What then is the definition of sex workers? According to a World Bank report (2002) on, analysis of HIV prevention programming to prevent HIV transmission during commercial sex in developing countries defined sex workers as:
Women, men and transgendered people who receive money or goods in exchange for sexual services, and who consciously define those activities as income generating even if they do not consider sex work as their occupation.
According to this definition, receiving transport money or gifts from a grateful and impressed sexual partner after intercourse or before means you are a sex worker.
Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Sex Worker as: a person whose work involves sexually explicit behavior. It does not dwell much on the commercial purpose of the act like the definition by World Bank.
This implies if you are involved in any sexual explicit behavior whether for commercial gain or not makes you a sex worker.
Your desire alone for sex whether for commercial purpose or not makes you a sex worker yet we all don’t undertake work for commercial purpose. For instance Charity work for the good of others is not commercial in nature.
Work by its nature is an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose equally includes sex.
Now, if the definition of sex workers seem to vary according to how one understands it; are there enrolled sex workers who do not know what they are doing is sex work? How then can Gulu leadership deal with a perennial vice that has existed time immemorial?
During the show, there were arguments that this kind of reporting will blur the good image of the new Gulu City to its previous negative narrative. Now, on this Blog (http://www.Lagulu.org) my focus is changing the negative narratives of Gulu and that was partly my argument.
However, in hindsight if we ask the question; is it time to openly talk about sex against our original cultural norms? Is it time to call K-Road by its name and not acronyms? As argued by one of the panelist, if we had denied the presence of Ebola disease, we would not have succeeded to end its spread.
Likewise, it is time to openly discuss this new vices resulting from changing internal migrations patterns, urbanization and old vices in Gulu that culture forbade us from discussing. It’s time to openly talk about sex education to our children since the cosmopolitan nature of this new city cannot make us rely on the cultural roles of aunties and uncles to educate our children. If we don’t, then their peers will.
If our local leaders begin talking openly about trending vices, then institutions mandated on morality like Churches, Ker Kwaro Acholi and the Community Development Officers can begin to prioritize it in their programs.
It’s imperative to note that openly talking about this vices will require facts, information and wisdom if it is to be productive.
The author is a Blogger based in Gulu and can be reached on: email@example.com