Legalising Prostitution – Women Give Ekweremadu Hard Knocks

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Senator Ike Ekweremadu

Senator Ike Ekweremadu

Two Months After Halima, a 15 year 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.”

Nwosu – Juba, Yemi Odiadi, Ngozi Ezeilo, Margaret Ogbanga and Okei-Odumakin

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.

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’ .


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