Religion, Rehabilitation and Political Participation of Sex Workers in Kampala

Home Institution

University of Notre Dame

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

Uganda: Development Studies


During the six week practicum period, the researcher studied the interplay between religious and political institutions and sex workers in Kampala, and the effectiveness of methods used to rehabilitate members of this population. She attempted to ascertain what religious and political leaders view as their responsibilities toward this population and learn about the ways in which their institutions currently assist sex workers. The researcher also tried to measure the importance of religion in the lives of sex workers and identify the extent to which these women participate in politics. Additionally, the researcher wanted to learn whether a forum for dialogue exists between sex worker and religious and political leaders. Lastly, she attempted to evaluate the effectiveness of rehabilitative methods and identify ways in which they can be improved.

Throughout the ISP period, the researcher used qualitative methods of data collection to build her report. She used semi structured interviews to gather information from six sex workers working in a brothel in Kisenyi and also had formal interviews with two LC 1s from the same area. Additionally, the researcher held two focus group discussions with seven and nine women respectively. Though the focus group discussions occurred in Munyonyo, the sex workers came from several different areas within Kampala. The researcher also conducted formal interviews with a representative from the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity, and religious leaders representing Islam and Christianity, including the Catholic and Born Again denominations.

The researcher found that sex workers value their religion despite the fact that they practice a trade which contradicts the norms of Christianity and Islam. She also discovered that the majority of sex workers participate politically and have organized themselves as a group to vote specific candidates into office. In terms of religion, the researcher discovered that religious leaders understand the various reasons why women enter the sex trade and do not judge sex workers more or less harshly than their clients. Their views about their obligations toward this population vary, though the researcher discovered that their respective institutions offer no services which specifically target the sex worker population. With regard to politics, the researcher discovered that no forum for dialogue exists between the state and sex workers and officials at the local level view this population more harshly than people at higher levels of government. The researcher found that organizations which offer rehabilitative services do not do outreach and their programs are often impractical or inaccessible to the women they target.


Civic and Community Engagement | Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Social Work

This document is currently not available here.


Article Location