Aside from health challenges, sex workers often face a number of human rights violations which includes institutional and interpersonal violence and labor rights violation. Sex workers also face stigmatization and prosecution in Nigeria based on societal, cultural, and religious norms.
Such as in any kind of job, security is of the utmost importance, which is why there are laws and rules in place to ensure that people are protected.
It is not news that Sex work is criminalized not only through prohibitions on selling sexual services, but also through laws that prohibit the solicitation of sex work, brothel-keeping, or the purchase of sexual services. However, criminalizing sex work contributes largely to the negative treatment by society as well as reduces the freedom of sex workers to publicly advocate for their rights.
Decriminalizing sex work will enable sex workers to do their work without the fear of stigma, extortion, violence, and social exclusion. The constant assault of sex workers by the police is enabled by the fact that they are sure of getting away with it, as sex workers cannot report abuse for fear of arrest.
For these reasons, sex work should be decriminalized and sex workers offered all the protections just like other workers as criminalizing sex workers depletes their legal protection and ability to exercise their rights as Nigerian Citizens. Hence, legal recognition of their profession will enhance their protection, self-worth, and equality; hence this will lead to the reduction of stigma and discrimination within society.
It is evident that decriminalization of sex workers will be a more effective approach to protecting not only the rights of all persons but also the rights of persons who engage in sex work. Research by Human Rights Watch affirmed that the decriminalization of sex work can help reduce crime, including sexual violence against sex workers.
No doubt, the legal status of sex work perpetuates the problems associated with it, if it’s legalized, safe, and regulated ‘the monster in the closet will evaporate’ as making it illegal encourages the perception that sex work workers are criminals.
Instances abound where law enforcement officers take advantage of sex workers in Nigeria. This is not only unfortunate but also inhuman because these are people who are supposed to protect the citizens. Sex workers also lament repeated arrests and fines for doing sex work with no lawyers to intervene. This act should be kicked against considering the rate of unemployment looming in the country. Commercial sex should not be a country’s problem – it’s a voluntary and consensual sexual activity between adults. It is also a means of survival for many and helps to eradicate poverty.
It is the responsibility of the government to protect the human rights of its citizens and not to be harassed, physically and sexually assaulted, kidnapped, or extorted as experienced by a lot of sex workers in Nigeria.
Nigerian sex workers can be empowered and also be equipped with adequate knowledge of safety and security, health, and Human rights.
There is a strong need to legalize and recognize sex work cannot be over-emphasized as this will put an end to putting sex workers under offensive stigmas and prejudices.