The first map of Nairobi’s “red light hotspots” published online in January has been withdrawn following pressure from civil society groups.
The map covering what the authors said was the epicentre of both male and female prostitution in the city had covered 137 work stations, all within a distance of about one kilometre from the Sex Worker Outreach Programme (SWOP) clinic on Keekrok Road.
The initial publication in the journal Plos One included a vivid map of these locations, which included bars, streets, hotels, sex dens and strip clubs. But the graphic has now been withdrawn by the same publication.
In the correction made last week, the authors, without giving specifics, said the map had raised concerns in some quarters and consequently they had decided to remove it from circulation.
“In light of the possible implications that the public availability of this information can have on the Nairobi sex workers, the authors have decided to withdraw this map from the publication,” says the correction.
On Tuesday December 17, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, commercial sex workers marched the streets of Nairobi, protesting against alleged constant harassment by city council askaris. Some called for legalisation of sex trade, with one female sex worker saying: “We are not like robbers. We have never killed anyone. We just use a part of our bodies to make money”.
The correction in the study, which was led by Dr Joshua Kimani of the University of Nairobi and Manitoba, Canada, says: “Any reader with an academic interest in the information originally displayed in the figure may contact the authors directly in relation to this information.”
The defunct Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, the University of Nairobi and the universities of Toronto and Manitoba of Canada had carried out the study. It had indicated that the covered area, only a small part of the CBD had about 7,000 male and female prostitutes, on a 24 hour working schedule.
In a phone interview with one of the study authors Dr Nicholas Muraguri, the director Global Plan for Elimination of HIV among Children and Keeping their Mother Alive, said the action was precipitated by some civil society groups, arguing the map exposed the prostitutes to certain dangers.
Dr Muraguri, who was at the time of the study, the director at the National Aids and STDs Control Programme, said pinpointing where such groups operated exposed them to possible police harassment.
“The harassment of these groups by the police makes it hard for health workers to reach them, especially with HIV interventions,” said Dr Muraguri on phone from South Africa, where he is attending the 17th International Conference on Aids STIs in Africa (ICASA).
“Prostitutes are an important cog in HIV transmission and every effort must be made to reach them with preventive interventions as well as treatment when they get infected”.