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Nigerian government should legalize prostitution to reduce HIV–Sex workers

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Nigerian Government has been urged by the Nigerian Sex Workers Association to legalize their trade. According to them, this will curb the spread of HIV.

The sex workers noted that the main reason for wide spread of HIV is because government treated prostitution as a crime.

It stated that law enforcement agents, especially the police, consequently harassed sex workers and sometimes demand sex without using condoms.

Amaka Enemo, the National Coordinator, disclosed this while aswering journalists at the presentation of the report tagged, ‘Understanding the High Risk of Urban Sexual Networks in Nigeria.’

Enemo was said to have played an active role in gathering information for the report, which was compiled by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, the University of Manitoba, United States, and the World Bank.

She said, “Sex workers face violence, especially from their clients and law enforcement agents. Sex work is seen as a crime and the police raid streets and brothels to arrest sex workers. They collect money and if the girl cannot pay money, she will have to give sex to the policemen. If the law enforcer does not want to use condom, the sex worker has to agree and this is why HIV is on the increase.

“So, in this study, all the sex workers we interacted with said their biggest trouble was law enforcers.”

The 36-year-old said several studies had shown that countries where prostitution is not illegal had lower cases of sexually transmitted diseases, while Nigeria, where it is illegal, had one of the highest rates of HIV in the world.

She said sex work should be made legal, and government should not saddle sex workers with the responsibility of paying tax.

Enemo said, “When I visited Amsterdam (Holland), I was able to visit the red light district where sex workers work because prostitution is legal there. I have also visited New Zealand where they have decriminalised sex work.

“When you decriminalize it, there will be less exploitation of sex workers and the violence will reduce.”

“Decriminalise the work so that all of us will be healthy. It might interest you to know that Nigeria has the second highest risk of HIV worldwide and we are hoping to get to zero before 2030.

“How can it end when the drivers of the epidemic are being criminalised?”

In his remarks, the Director, Strategic Knowledge Management, NACA, Dr Kayode Ogungbemi, said sex workers must be taken seriously since married men also patronised them.

He said the message of use of protection must also be taken to mega stores and other places where sexual relationships began.

Ogungbemi added, “This report looks at the history of casual sex, transactional sex and commercial sex. If we do not reach these women, the infection will continue to spread.

He added that sex workers must be taught to use condoms and to go for HIV test. “Because if we don’t do that, they will continue to spread it. Even married people patronise them”, he noted.

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