By EBUN SESSOU
Two months after Halima, a-15year old girl was introduced to sleeping with older men in the town, her lifestyle went a different direction.
All the way from Kaduna, she was brought by her sister’s friend to study in Lagos. Right now, she has no reason going back from her new profession.
Just like a child’s play, commercial sex , popularly called prostitution has come to stay in Nigeria. And going by Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu who is canvassing for its legalization, it may be possible for prostitution to be legally appreciated.
Those who have been in the hiding may come forth boldly to exploit their potentials while people who have been having second thoughts about the business might be considering the possibility of going into it at all cost.
According Ekweremadu, “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 licence. If we say we want to stop it, it would be difficult. It is done in other countries; let us regulate it by issuing licence.”
Reacting to his statement, wife of Lagos State Governor, Mrs. Abimbola Fashola warned the National Assembly not to consider suggestions to legalize prostitution in the country.Many Nigerians have been expressing dismay and disappointment over the Deputy Senate President’s campaign.
It is against this background that Saturday Vanguard sampled the opinions of women activists in Nigeria over the issue of legalizing prostitution .
While some are of the opinion that permitting prostitution in the country is unlawful, others said it would serve as protection and measures for checkmating violation against the right of the woman.
According to Mr.Uche Ezechukwu, legalizing commercial sex is licence to transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
No bill to legalize prostitution
— Dr. Ezeilo
Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons especially women and children, in her opinion said, “the Criminal Code does not per se criminalize prostitution. What it does is punish persons who trade in prostitution, that is pimps and persons who keep brothels and also allows persons under 16 to be in brothels. Causing or encouraging the seduction or prostitution of a girl under 16 is considered as part of offences against morality and also punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years. Interestingly, the relevant sections of the Criminal Code on Prostitution targets men including women who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution. In other words, it targets men and women who exploit prostitution of others and that will include pimps and traffickers who exercise control, direction, or influence over the movements of a prostitute in such a manner that she is aiding, abetting or compelling her prostitution. Consequently and legally speaking, prostitution as it were if carried out by an adult woman working for herself and exercising control over her earnings is not criminalized under Nigerian law. Nevertheless, it is also not legalized.
“The Penal Code is even more progressive given the fact that it has not also been revised and the time it came into force, which is older than Nigeria’s independence. It criminalizes importation of a girl under the age of 21 from a foreign country into Northern Nigeria and this is the Section that should have been used to prosecute Senator Yerima and his cohorts who imported a minor girl from Egypt and forced or seduced her into illicit intercourse. The punishment is 10 years in addition to fine.
The coming into force of the NAPTIP Act – that is the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law and Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 as Amended in 2005 has criminalized foreign travels which promote prostitution and trafficking in women whether for sexual or labour exploitation. Nigeria is a major source country for women trafficked to Europe including Africa , Middle East and Asia for Prostitution and unfortunately, this illicit deal in human beings is not declining and the notoriety Nigeria has acquired in that regard calls for action to stop the sex trafficking of women in particular. NAPTIP is doing excellent work in combating trafficking and I often used them as best practice example as I carry out my work as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
From my experience, some countries have adopted legislation that criminalizes prostitution or the buying or soliciting of sexual services, which has reportedly led to a significant reduction in the number of foreign women engaged in street prostitution, thus creating an unprofitable market for sex trafficking. On the other hand, some States have also legalized it with persuasive arguments that it curbs sex trafficking. Such countries do not view the abolition of prostitution as an effective strategy for reducing the incidence of trafficking and advocate for prostitutes’ right to earn their livelihood and to organize themselves to assert their rights.
The middle course which
has been adopted by most Scandinavian countries led by Sweden is to criminalize clients who buy sex. Whether this is appropriate or effective is the subject of a great deal of comment and impassioned debate, which I have extensively discussed in my 2010 report to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
In the end, I think it’s for States to decide what works for them by legalizing prostitution, banning it or decriminalizing it. I know that on ground of public morality and religious nature of Nigerians, they will not favour legalizing prostitution. From my investigation, there is no bill to legalize prostitution before the National Assembly and the Deputy Senate President I believe was not advocating that but making a hypothetical remarks in the context of call for review of NAPTIP Act and the scale of human trafficking of Nigerian girls abroad for prostitution. Notwithstanding, I strongly believe that the legislators will respect the public opinion of the electorate in this regard.
Nigerian government needs to do more work in addressing the root causes of prostitution, trafficking in persons, reducing demand for sexual services, promoting safe migration and raising awareness of risks associated with trafficking.
The truth is that there is a thriving market for commercial sex, where trafficked women and girls represent a high proportion of those involved in providing commercial sex and demand comes chiefly from adult men and older adolescent boys. We need to combat that effectively. However, in doing that, we must protect and not punish women who prostitute or are forced to engage in prostitution or commercial sex work.
We are certainly not doing enough to address the root causes of trafficking including growing poverty, underdevelopment, sex discrimination, lack of equal opportunities, gender based violence, inequalities and social exclusion including lack of access to education. The government should in comprehensive manner address these ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors that work to increase vulnerability of women and girls to prostitute their bodies and also to fall prey to traffickers.
Lawmakers should focus on empowerment
— Dr. Joe
There are more important issues begging for attention in Nigeria. There are more pro people issues that should be considered for legislation rather than dissipating energy on legalization of prostitution.
I think the position of Deputy Senate President is a very responsible office that should be occupied by proactive and forward looking leaders, who will legislate on laws that open up space for people to eke their living through dignified means.
I am of the opinion that
rather than canvass for the legalization of prostitution or commercial sex, it would be more reasonable and honourable to legislate on laws that will create business and jobs for Nigerians; legislation that will encourage social insurance and make life more comfortable for people.
I understand the issue of right in some of this but we should realize that there are certain things that are morally wrong. ‘Righteousness exalts a nation; sin is a reproach’ .
It is against the culture of the land — Mina Margaret Ogbanga
For Mina Margaret Ogbanga, a development activist, it is against the culture of the land.
“I don’t support legalization of prostitution in Nigeria especially bearing in mind the global definition of prostitution and the context in which it operates.
“Looking at the issue of morality in Nigeria, it is morally wrong for anybody to legalise prostitution. There is need for checkmating some acts that are not lawful. Prostitution should be generalised looking at the the increasing rate of negativity it will pose on people’s lives. Legalising it will give chance for those who are not ready to go into it to give a second thought.
“Another issue is peace. Our religion has created the act of consciousness in us. Therefore legalising it is a taboo and against the belief of Nigerians. And considering the rule of law, I can’t subscribe to legalizing it because it will allow those who are not into such act to take it up. Legalising it is legalising trading in Nigerian women.
It tantamounts to promoting social imbalances
— Barr. Jacqueline Yemi Odiadi
In her opinion, Jacqueline Yemi Odiadi, from Development Support Institute, said that legalising prostitution and same -sex relationships being canvassed by some law makers is an outright lack of focus. “We are a nation in need of laws to build and sustain a society and not to engage in trivial issues being engaged in ‘western, more developed countries’.
“Prostitution is regarded as one of the oldest professions but none of the forebears of those who have engaged in this profession have done so by choice but by harsh realities of life and societal in-balances.
“Legalising prostitution will be tantamount to promoting and sustaining societal in-balances. Legislators in developing economies such as Nigeria should focus more on laws that would rebuild our social systems, promote family life and opportunities for self development.
“Our social structure should serve as a model for other societies to emulate, we should resist all attempts at importing alien values that is antithetical to healthy moral values.”
It’s the only way to safeguard lives
— Ngozi Nwosu Juba
Ngozi Nwosu – Juba, Project Director, Vision Spring Initiatives, however said legalizing commercial sex work and other sexuality related behaviours are the best way of ensuring that lives are safeguarded.
“I commend this statement which I know many Nigerians unfortunately will kick against. We however need to understand that legalizing commercial sex (the word prostitution is actually derogatory) will go a long way in ensuring that commercial sex workers practice safe sex thereby safeguarding their lives and that of those who patronize them. The truth is that whether we legalize it or not, the trade exists and thrives in our country. While this debate is going on, I make the following submissions to ensure that when the profession is legalized, that rights are not violated.
“All forms of stigmatization must be eradicated so that the practitioners can carry out their trade with respect and dignity; there should be rigorous training of law enforcement agencies to respect their rights as citizens and if they report cases of abuse, should be taken seriously.
“People should not insinuate that because they are commercial sex workers, they do not have right to say no to sex when they are not ready to engage in it.
“There should be adequate HIV prevention and education training and services in order to protect themselves. There should be institutionalization of avenue for them to seek redress when their rights are violated.
“We should not see this call by the Deputy senate president as a non-priority. He is coming from an informed position. Nigeria also needs to begin to see sexuality rights as developmental rights. The country cannot achieve maximum growth if any sector is left unattended to”.