What is the legality of prostitution in Cameroon?

What is the Legality of Prostitution in Cameroon?

Prostitution in Cameroon is illegal, yet it remains a widespread practice throughout the country. This has led to a significant number of sex workers operating in various parts of the nation, including major cities such as Yaoundé, Douala, and Bamenda. Despite the criminalization of the trade, sex workers continue to face challenges such as police harassment, social stigma, and poor access to healthcare services.

What are the Laws, Penalties, and Law Enforcement Measures in Place?

Prostitution in Cameroon is governed by several provisions within the penal code. Some of the key provisions include:

  • Article 343: Punishment for anyone who engages in prostitution, with penalties of imprisonment for six months to five years and a fine of 20,000 to 500,000 francs.
  • Article 344: Penalizes those who knowingly rent a property for the purpose of prostitution, with penalties of imprisonment for one to five years and a fine of 50,000 to 1,000,000 francs.
  • Article 345: Penalizes those who incite or facilitate prostitution, with penalties of imprisonment for one to five years and a fine of 50,000 to 1,000,000 francs.

Law enforcement measures are in place to combat prostitution, but they are often inconsistent and selectively enforced. Police are known to harass and extort sex workers, sometimes demanding sexual favors in exchange for not arresting them. This contributes to the vulnerability of sex workers and undermines efforts to address the issue.

How is Prostitution Referred to Locally in Cameroon?

In Cameroon, prostitution is often referred to as ashawo or prostituée in local languages. Sex workers are often stigmatized and discriminated against, leading to marginalization and limited access to social services. This social stigma, combined with the illegality of the trade, makes it difficult for sex workers to report cases of violence, abuse, or exploitation.

What is the History of Prostitution in Cameroon?

Prostitution in Cameroon has a long history, with some sources tracing its roots back to the pre-colonial era. The practice became more widespread during the colonial period, as European traders and settlers introduced new forms of prostitution, including brothels and other establishments catering to their needs. In the post-colonial era, the economic downturn and widespread poverty have contributed to the continued prevalence of sex work in the country.

Efforts to regulate and control prostitution in Cameroon have been met with varying degrees of success. In the past, some cities, such as Douala, experimented with creating designated red-light districts in an attempt to contain the trade. However, these efforts were ultimately abandoned due to a lack of resources and political will.

What Government Laws and Resources Address Prostitution in Cameroon?

While prostitution remains illegal in Cameroon, the government has taken some steps to address the issue. Some of the key measures include:

  • Creation of a national strategy to combat human trafficking: In 2011, Cameroon adopted a National Action Plan to combat human trafficking, which includes provisions related to the protection and assistance of victims, as well as the prosecution of traffickers. This plan acknowledges the link between prostitution and human trafficking and seeks to address both issues simultaneously.
  • Implementation of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs: The government has recognized the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among sex workers and has implemented targeted prevention and treatment programs to address this issue. These programs provide sex workers with access to condoms, HIV testing, and antiretroviral therapy, helping to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • Collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs): The government has also partnered with various NGOs to provide support and assistance to sex workers. These organizations offer services such as legal aid, healthcare, and psychosocial support, helping to improve the overall well-being of sex workers in the country.

Despite these efforts, more needs to be done to address the root causes of prostitution in Cameroon and to provide adequate protection and support for those involved in the trade. This includes addressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, and gender inequality, as well as ensuring that law enforcement measures are consistently and fairly applied.

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