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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Tax for Uganda sex workers
By Abraham Odeke
BBC, Malaba, Uganda

Commercial sex services in the Uganda-Kenya border town of Malaba are likely to cost more following the introduction of an annual operating tax by the local authorities.

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The authorities have ordered commercial sex workers in the town to pay 9,000 Uganda shillings ($4.50) before they are allowed to operate in the town.

Some of the sex workers have rushed to pay the tax.

The issue has triggered an angry reaction from some men in Malaba because other sex workers plan to increase their charges.

Malaba is the busiest town on the Uganda-Kenya border, with hundreds of cargo trucks and the inter-territorial buses dropping fresh sex clients from across East Africa daily.

Reluctant co-operation

When news of the sex tax emerged last week, it was treated as a joke.

But now it is being taken seriously after Malaba town chief, John Ikileng, threatened to close all the unlicensed sex shops in the town if the sex workers refused to pay the "annual special operating tax".

According to Mr Ikileng all working people in the town should assist in the development of Malaba by paying some form of tax.

The chief told me there are more than 500 commercial sex workers camped permanently in Malaba town.

Malaba town

According to the chief's office, sex workers earn an average of 150,000 shillings tax free every month.

The Malaba town treasury is hoping to collect more than four million shillings from the new sex tax this year alone.

I spoke to several of the commercial sex workers in Malaba town. The majority of the sex workers told me the tax was illegal and an act of sabotage but would pay it to avoid harassment

"We shall not hesitate to hike our charges to compensate for the abnormal tax we have been asked to pay," one woman told me.

"We expect our clients will co-operate accordingly," another said.

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