By Ige Olugbenga
The Nigerian Sex Workers Association has called on the federal government to legalise prostitution in order to prevent the spread of HIV infection in the country.
The national coordinator of the association, Amaka Enemo, disclosed this on Wednesday in Abuja during an interview with journalists at the presentation of a report titled, ‘Understanding the High Risk of Urban Sexual Networks in Nigeria.’
Enemo stated that HIV infection is on the rise because the government treats prostitution as an illegal act and law enforcement agents, especially the police, consequently harass sex workers and sometimes demand sex without using condoms.
It was learnt that 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 (NACA), 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.
Emeno added, “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.”
She said several studies have shown that countries where prostitution is not illegal have lower cases of sexually transmitted diseases.
She, however, urged the government not to saddle sex workers with the responsibility of paying tax.