The Mysterious Death of Rose Nakakande- a Sex Worker Peer Leader

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In a society where human rights violations amongst key populations like sex workers is seldom kept into account, one can only keep hoping but cannot tell when the horror of the violations shall be curbed with appropriate justice served. Only when you have someone so loved and close to you for a victim, does the reality sink in with unimaginable chills: So is the story of Rose Nakakande.


Rose Nakakande in vibrant traditional wear

Rose’s life

Rose was a 39-year-old lady, a resident of Luwafu Zone, Makindye Division, Kampala City. She was married with 4 children and a mother of twins. she volunteered with Lady Mermaid as trained peer leader operating in Makindye Division for over 3yrs, and had been a member of Lady Mermaid for 6 years.

Rose was identified, trained by lady mermaid and had been working as a peer leader and a human rights advocate since 2019 and executed her work gracefully.

Tragedy first hit her when she lost one of her beautiful twins in February 2021 but that did not hinder her determination and drive to serve her community in the fight against the spread of HIV amongst young commercial sex workers.

As a peer leader, she had dedicated her life to prevent the spread of HIV among Sex Workers in Makindye through distribution of Condoms, health education, PrEP screening, referral and linkage of Sex Workers to specialized clinics including CDC clinic Kiruddu, Merm Care clinic and Lady Mermaid DIC for HIV related services.

During her time, Rose was able to provide psychosocial support to her fellow peers and fought for the rights of her fellow Sex Workers through grass root advocacy that involved engaging local leaders, bar owners, police, brothel managers, bouncers, religious leaders and clients on rights of Sex Workers and prevention of violent acts against Sex Workers.

Events building up till her death

On the 25th of March 2021, Rose had a fresh commitment to hit the grass root community again; to go deep and reach out. During a feedback and weekly planning meeting with her fellow trained Peer leaders at Lady Mermaid DIC, Rose had unveiled a personal ambitious target to reach out to 12 more Sex Workers with HIV prevention and treatment services including linkage to HIV care and enrollment on PrEP services in one week. Little did her peers know that It was the last time they were going to set their eyes on her vibrancy and energy.

It is said that on the night of 28th -March, Rose met with a client at 3am in the morning who willed to buy her sex work services for a night at a brothel in Makindye.

While information about what followed remains unknown, it is reported that while the security guard made round within the brothel, he found Rose lying naked on a bed at around 5pm only to discover that she was already dead. On learning this, the manager of the brothel along with all the other sex workers that were present, scattered in different directions in fear of questioning from the police, presumably being uncertain of their freedom since commercial sex work is illegal in Uganda.

The case was reported to police and filed at Katwe police post-  Case no. SD08/29/3/2021 and the body transported to the mortuary.

Lady Mermaid was reached out by one of Rose’s Peers very early in the morning of that day of her murder who immediately Raised the issue to HRAPF (Human Rights Advocacy and Promotion Forum) (a partner organization that provide legal support to Sex Workers) to follow up with legal support to bring justice.

Possible Cause of Death

While HRAPF continues to follow up on the legal proceeding to solve the case, it is suspected that Rose might have been murdered by her client in a fight for her rights. As found common in like incidences, she might have claimed for her pay after serving the client or it could have been a misunderstanding between her and the client. There is also speculation that she could have been trailed down and killed because of the strong activism she has been doing against violation of Sex Workers rights in her community.

Lady mermaid organized the transportation and led arrangements for Rose’s burial. Rose was laid to rest on the 30th of march 2021 at her ancestral home in Sembabule matete, mitete village.

Possible Cause of Death

While HRAPF continues to follow up on the legal proceeding to solve the case, it is suspected that Rose might have been murdered by her client in a fight for her rights. As found common in like incidences, she might have claimed for her pay after serving the client or it could have been a misunderstanding between her and the client. There is also speculation that she could have been trailed down and killed because of the strong activism she has been doing against violation of Sex Workers rights in her community.

Lady mermaid organized the transportation and led arrangements for Rose’s burial. Rose was laid to rest on the 30th of march 2021 at her ancestral home in Sembabule matete, mitete village.

The implementation Gap left by Rose

Sex Workers that Rose had planned to reach were deprived of the opportunity, including the HIV positives who had absconded have not been linked back to care.

From 2019-till her death, Rose had identified and brought to care 18 HIV positive Sex Workers and supported them to adhere to their drugs, she had linked more than 40 Sex Workers to receive PrEP drugs and had reached out to more than 200 Sex Workers with HIV and Sexual reproductive health education and awareness.

The memories of Rose being a very calm and jolly woman, a soft voice, very well coming with a strong work ethic still linger in the sorrowful hearts of those who were close to her and the people she strived to reach out to, empowered and gave hope.

Lady Mermaid’s Mandate

Lady Mermaid with legal support from HRAPF is committed to follow up the case to ensure that justice if attained

We cannot allow these sad situations to tie us down but rather give us more zeal as Lady Mermaid to continue to engage brothel managers, on promoting safe working places for Sex Workers and adopting safety policies in Sex Work environments. We are also determined to continue spear heading nationwide advocacy to de-crime and promote respect of Sex Workers’ human rights.

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