Is Prostitution Legal in Ethiopia?
In Ethiopia, prostitution is technically legal; however, many activities associated with it, such as procuring and living off the earnings of a prostitute, are illegal. The Ethiopian Criminal Code does not specifically criminalize the act of selling sex, but it does criminalize several activities connected to prostitution. As a result, sex workers often face a precarious legal situation and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
What are the Laws, Penalties, and Law Enforcement Strategies?
Although prostitution itself is not explicitly illegal in Ethiopia, the following activities related to prostitution are criminalized under the Ethiopian Criminal Code:
- Procuring or attempting to procure a person for the purpose of prostitution (Article 634)
- Exploiting the prostitution of another person (Article 635)
- Running a brothel (Article 636)
- Living off the earnings of a prostitute (Article 637)
- Forcing someone into prostitution (Article 638)
- Child prostitution (Article 639)
- Human trafficking for sexual exploitation (Article 597)
Penalties for these offenses vary, with some carrying prison sentences of up to 15 years. Law enforcement efforts to combat prostitution-related crimes are often inconsistent, and authorities sometimes focus on arresting sex workers rather than addressing the root causes of the issue or targeting those who exploit or abuse sex workers.
How is Prostitution Referred to Locally in Ethiopia?
In Ethiopia, prostitution is commonly referred to as Arada or Seba. Sex workers are often called commercial sex workers or CSWs. There is a significant stigma attached to prostitution in Ethiopia, and sex workers frequently face discrimination, marginalization, and violence.
What is the History of Prostitution in Ethiopia?
Prostitution has a long history in Ethiopia, dating back to ancient times. The practice was tolerated and sometimes even encouraged in certain historical periods. However, with the spread of Christianity and Islam in the region, attitudes towards prostitution began to change, and it became increasingly stigmatized.
In the 20th century, the growth of urban centers and the migration of rural women to cities led to an increase in the number of sex workers. The issue of prostitution gained greater attention during the Ethiopian Civil War (1974-1991) and the subsequent period of political instability, as many women turned to sex work as a means of survival.
Today, prostitution remains a contentious issue in Ethiopia, with some calling for the legalization and regulation of the industry to improve the working conditions and safety of sex workers, while others argue that prostitution should be eradicated entirely.
Where Can I Find Helpful Links, Government Laws, and Resources?
For more information about prostitution and related laws in Ethiopia, you can consult the following resources:
- The Ethiopian Criminal Code (2004)
- Human Rights Watch: Why Sex Work Should Be Decriminalized
- International Labour Organization: HIV/AIDS and the World of Work in Ethiopia
- ResearchGate: Prostitution and HIV in a Population-based Sample of Female Sex Workers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
While Ethiopia’s legal stance on prostitution may be somewhat ambiguous, it is important to recognize the challenges and dangers faced by sex workers in the country. Greater understanding, support, and legal protections for this vulnerable population are needed to address the issue effectively.