BY ISHOLA BALOGUN & EBUN SESSOU
Recently, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu on the floor of House asked the Senate to consider the possibility of legalising prostitution in the country.
Ekweremadu who spoke during a debate on a motion on the scourge of human trafficking in the country, Ekweremadu said since it has become impossible to stop prostitution in the land; the Senate should consider regulating the act in the country.
According to him “we need to regulate prostitution in this country so that if anyone wants to indulge in prostitution, the person should be registered and issued with a license. If we say we want to stop it, it would be difficult. It is done in other countries; let us regulate it by issuing license.”
But, instead of legalising the profession as proposed by Ekweremadu, the Federal Government seems to be looking in another direction by declaring a ‘ war ‘ on Abuja call girls, a faction out of the numerous sex centres in the country.
In a related development, the government has set up two training centres for commercial sex workers as part of measures to remove them from the streets.
The training centres would be located at Bwari Area Council and Lugbe in Anuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC.
The Federal Capital Territory, FCT, has also proposed to spend N5 billion this year to rehabilitate prostitutes and destitute who loiter the streets of Abuja.
However, this development has been generating mixed feelings amongst Nigerians. We present their sampled opinions.
Maybe another conduit for funds diversion — Prof Joy Ngozi Ezeilo
To Prof Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, the N5billion is a huge allocation. According to her, this is more than the budget of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and probably all their States counterpart put together.
She opined that, “if the said money goes to addressing inequalities that cause or lead to prostitution, destitution and vulnerabilities then it is a budget well directed.
“However, if it’s meant as I suspect to address asymptomatic manifestations of the deep rooted problems that create the difficult circumstances that force people into prostitution then it will be allocation misdirected and misapplied.
“Nevertheless, I haven’t seen the breakdown to know what specifics the money would be used for and given the unchecked corruption, I’m worried that this may be a conduit for funds diversion and eventual harassment of the already vulnerable group without doing anything substantial to address their needs and empower them to find alternative livelihood sustainability.
“We must endeavor to protect the human rights of all, treat people with dignity whether seen or called prostitute or female sex worker.
“I hope police will not see it as invitation to harass, arrest and clamp them in detentions. It has to be a voluntary programme and we have to allow the affected or supposed beneficiaries the opportunity to opt in or opt out.
“Again, I’m also not pleased with the lumping of prostitutes with destitute. These women and including men who work in the sex industry are human beings and should not be degraded because of the situation they find themselves in.
“What should be our focus is to ensure that people are not forced into prostitution and are not exploited by others, especially pimps earning a living from prostituting women and girls.
“I don’t think NAPTIP annual budget is anywhere near that 5 billion yet they have made a difference in combating human trafficking nationally and internationally. “I believe NAPTIP has the relevant expertise in the recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes to ensure that set goals to empower female commercial sex workers, lift them out of poverty and exploitative situations.
If this 5 billion is allocated towards the recovery programme at the rate of five hundred thousand Naira (N500, 000) per woman prostitute then it would succeed in reaching about 10,000 persons and this can effectively result in actual empowerment of the target group.
“However, I’m not sure whether FCT did any survey or need assessment to understand the problem, the target group and what probably the institutional response to pursue.
I’m not sure of what informed this heavy budget allocation but being in a country where mix-match budget is a common occurrence I have ceased to be shocked about these figures. “I think concerned persons, including the media should direct their attention to its implementation and demand accountability at the end of the day,” she concluded.
What we need is social reformation— Dr. Joe Okei – Odumakin President, Campaign for Democracy(CD), Dr. Joe Okei– Odumakin
Who also frowned at the proposed plan said, “Given what we know of Nigerian officials most of the funds would end in private pockets. It is the high level of official corruption that has given no other choice to those category of Nigerians than selling their bodies and going into destitution.“What we need today is social reformation that will create enabling environment where enterprise will flourish and citizens can make good choices. Throwing money at problems will multiply them rather than solving.
In waging war against prostitutes, said advised that, “Nigerian Government needs to address the conditions that are making those call girls go into prostitution, if they do not provide they alternatives and they engage in prostitution then the FG has no moral right to declare any war.”
She added lamented that, the FG is creating more conditions that is making our young girls to sell their bodies. Adding that provision of an enabling environment for enterprise to thrive will end poverty and create more jobs.
It is not sufficient to declare ‘war’ on prostitutes —Jacqueline ‘Yemi Odiadi
Jacqueline ‘Yemi Odiadi, Executive Director, Development Support Institute (DSI) in her own opinion said: “while it is commendable that at last, the FG has come to the realization that there is a gap that needs to be filled; a non-directional or non-strategic approach is not a step in the right direction.
“The passion to address a societal need requires a systematic and sustainable approach in the quest to deal with several issues so intricately linked to avoid this project turning out to be a white elephant project.
“A critical look at our social system will reveal that indeed a yawning gap exists which deserves a declaration of a “State of Emergency”.
“Of recent, we read of a few states taking deliberate initial steps to address some need of the socially under-served, we however lack the statistics to know the impact of what is showcased in the newspapers.
However, she opined that, “Although we are not privy to the master plan of the FG in this rehabilitation project, we need to ask some basic questions, what role will professionals play in the rehabilitation process, professionals like Psychologist? Adult education consultants, Life Skill Trainers, Life Coaches, Counselors, Financial advisers, Health Care Givers etc?
“It is not sufficient to declare ‘war’ on prostitutes without equipping the ‘army of professionals’ with the required capacity training to effectively combat this social malaise which we know is fueled by other factors like unemployment, social support system and lack of education either formal or informal to make informed choices.
“The relevant government agencies need to be overhauled, retrained and filled with well trained and adequately equipped army of personnel from field workers up to policy makers to take on this Goliath that is threatening the very existence of decent living.
“Extreme care must also be taken about the overall implementation of this program to avoid it being highjacked by those whose mission is self serving and not in the overall interest of prostitutes and destitute really in need of rehabilitation,” she said.