What is the legality of prostitution in Nigeria?

Is Prostitution Legal in Nigeria?

Prostitution in Nigeria is illegal and is not regulated by the government. The practice is widespread and is prevalent in major cities, tourist areas, and transit hubs. Despite its illegality, prostitution remains a significant issue in Nigeria, with the country having one of the highest rates of human trafficking and sex work in Africa.

What are the Laws, Penalties, and Law Enforcement Measures Related to Prostitution?

The criminalization of prostitution in Nigeria is outlined in the Nigerian Criminal Code, the Penal Code, and the Sharia Penal Code. The laws are applicable to both buyers and sellers of sexual services, and the penalties vary depending on the specific provisions in each code.

  • The Nigerian Criminal Code (applicable in southern states) prohibits the procurement of women for prostitution, living on the earnings of prostitution, and keeping a brothel. Penalties include imprisonment for up to two years.
  • The Penal Code (applicable in northern states) criminalizes the buying and selling of sex, and penalties include imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine.
  • The Sharia Penal Code (applicable in some northern states) prescribes harsher punishments, such as flogging and even death by stoning, for individuals found guilty of engaging in or promoting prostitution.

Law enforcement measures against prostitution in Nigeria are often inconsistent and ineffective, with corruption playing a significant role in undermining efforts to address the issue. Police raids on brothels and arrests of sex workers are common, but convictions are rare, and many arrested individuals are released after paying bribes.

How is Prostitution Referred to Locally in Nigeria?

Prostitution in Nigeria is often referred to as ashawo or runs in local slang. The term ashawo is derived from the Yoruba language and is commonly used to describe sex workers, while runs is a colloquial term used to describe the act of engaging in prostitution or the pursuit of clients by sex workers.

What is the History of Prostitution in Nigeria?

Prostitution has been a part of Nigerian society for centuries, with historical records indicating the existence of sex work in pre-colonial times. The practice was initially associated with traditional religious practices and was later influenced by European colonization and the growth of urban centers. The arrival of European traders and soldiers in the 19th and 20th centuries led to the establishment of brothels in major cities and the growth of the sex industry.

Following Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the government attempted to address the issue of prostitution by enacting various laws and policies. However, these efforts have been largely unsuccessful, with prostitution remaining a significant problem in the country. The rise of poverty, unemployment, and economic instability in recent decades has further exacerbated the issue, driving more women into sex work as a means of survival.

What Government Laws and Resources are in Place to Address Prostitution in Nigeria?

The Nigerian government has implemented several laws and initiatives aimed at addressing prostitution and related issues, such as human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Some of these include:

  • The Child Rights Act (2003), which criminalizes child prostitution and prescribes penalties of up to life imprisonment for offenders.
  • The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act (2003), which established the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking, including those involving prostitution.
  • The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (2015), which criminalizes various forms of violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse, and provides for support services for victims.

Despite these legal frameworks, the Nigerian government’s efforts to combat prostitution and related issues have been hindered by inadequate resources, poor enforcement, and widespread corruption. Moreover, there is a lack of comprehensive social support and rehabilitation services for sex workers and victims of trafficking, making it difficult for them to exit the industry and rebuild their lives.

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