Many female sex workers in sub-Saharan Africa face discrimination, violence, and marginalization in the course of work.
With poor healthcare and anti-prostitution laws, many of these sex workers often risk contracting several sexually transmitted diseases including the deadly HIV/AIDS.
But in Senegal, the government has come up with distinctive ways to regulate the activities of sex workers to curtail such challenges.
According to a report by news site The Economist, the government gives these women identification cards to confirm them as sex workers and to enable them to have access to free healthcare, condoms, and education.
Under the country’s laws, a woman has the right to work in the sex trade if she is over 21.
She has to undergo mandatory health check-ups every month to ensure that her sex worker identity card stays valid. Refusal to do so can get her fined or jailed.
Also, a sex worker who contracts HIV will not have her license revoked completely, meaning she can continue practicing as long as she receives treatment in the form of free antiretroviral drugs.
This system of regulating the activities of sex workers began in the colonial days when the French issued a legislation that regulated prostitution in order to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Senegal reintroduced this in the 1980s when the disease was killing many on the continent. It has since contributed to low HIV prevalence rate of 0.4%.
Nevertheless, many women still refuse to sign up to the initiative over fears that doing so could affect them in future, The Economist reports.
Scores of people also feel that men should be included in the initiative as they are also involved in sex work.