A new body of commercial sex workers in Nigeria has called on the Federal Government to legalize the profession to prevent the spread of HIV.
A splinter group from the National Association of Nigerian Prostitutes [NANP] called the Nigerian Sex Workers Association [NSWA], has called on the Federal Government to legalize their profession as this would curb the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The newly formed body also believes that if the government should decriminalize prostitution, the incessant harassment they face from law enforcement agents would reduce while men who demand sex from them without using condoms will reduce.
During a meeting of the association in Abuja, Amaka Enemo, the National Coordinator of NSWA, said commercial sex workers are law abiding citizens of the country and also pay taxes and as such, the profession should be legalized.
In an interview with journalists at the presentation of a report titled, ‘Understanding the High Risk of Urban Sexual Networks in Nigeria,’ Enemo was said to have played an active role in gathering information for the report which was compiled by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, the University of Manitoba, United States, and the World Bank, shows the importance of prostitutes in the society.
“Sex workers face violence, especially from their clients and law enforcement agents. Sex work is seen as a crime and the police raid streets and brothels to arrest sex workers.
They collect money and if the girl cannot pay, she will have to give sex to the policemen. If the law enforcer does not want to use a condom, the sex worker has to agree and this is why HIV is on the increase.
So, in this study, all the sex workers we interacted with said their biggest trouble was law enforcers,” Enemo began.
The 36-year-old prostitute who said she had been in the business for over 10 years, added that several studies had shown that countries, where prostitution is not illegal, had lower cases of sexually transmitted diseases, while Nigeria where it is illegal, had one of the highest rates of HIV in the world.
“When I visited Amsterdam (Holland), I was able to visit the red light district where sex workers work because prostitution is legal there. I have also visited New Zealand where they have decriminalized sex work.
When you decriminalize it, there will be less exploitation of sex workers and the violence will reduce.
We want the government to decriminalize the work so that all of us will be healthy. It might interest you to know that Nigeria has the second highest risk of HIV worldwide and we are hoping to get to zero before 2030.
How can it end when the drivers of the epidemic are being criminalized?”
In his remarks, the Director, Strategic Knowledge Management of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS [NACA], Dr. Kayode Ogungbemi, said sex workers must be taken seriously since married men also patronized them.
“This report looks at the history of casual sex, transactional sex, and commercial sex. If we do not reach these women, the infection will continue to spread.
So, we must teach these women the use of condoms and be going for HIV tests because if we don’t do that, they will continue to spread it. Even married people patronize them.”
Also speaking, the Country Coordinator, Centre for Global Public Health, University of Manitoba, Dr. Kalada Green, said the exercise which was funded by the World Bank, was done in order to improve the efficiency of HIV prevention methods.
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