Prostitution has been around for ages as providing sexual favours for immediate monetary consideration or any other valuable has always been present. In Nigeria, there are verifiable reports of students in tertiary institutions engaging in sexual intercourse for cash, as well as stories on how female workers are compelled to sleep with their bosses for promotion or with clients to hit targets. Religious critics, pressure groups and some sections of Nigerian society have labelled prostitution, on moral grounds, as an unholy act, thus illegal. Let’s dive in to see what the laws in Nigeria say about prostitution so you draw your conclusions on the legality of the subject matter.
IS PROSTITUTION LEGAL IN NIGERIA?
There is no federal enactment that classifies prostitution as a crime nor one that has a penalty ascribed to it. The Criminal Code didn’t criminalize prostitution either, instead acts supporting, facilitating, and promoting it.
In the Northern States where the Penal Code is enforced, prostitution is illegal.
THE POSITION OF THE FEDERAL ENACTMENTS ON PROSTITUTION IN NIGERIA
The Nigerian Constitution which governs Nigeria does not see prostitution as a crime. So, it does not prescribe punishment for the act. This means Nigerians may engage in sexual intercourse with another person for financial rewards and wouldn’t have committed a crime, as long as it does not affect the public. They are simply enjoying their right to freedom of association.
The people that benefit from the proceeds of sex work (ie not the prostitute) can be found guilty per the provisions of the 2000 United Nation Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. To this end, national and transnational trafficking of women for commercial sex or child labour is strictly prohibited by the Nigerian Criminal System.
WHAT DO THE PRINCIPAL PENAL CODES IN NIGERIA SAY ABOUT PROSTITUTION?
Although federal laws did not criminalize prostitution, in the 12 Northern States where the Penal Code is enforced, it is illegal and a punishable offence. The States where this applies are Bauchi, Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Gombe, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara, and Niger.
In the Southern Part of Nigeria where the Criminal Code is enforced, prostitution is not a crime. That is, in Eastern and Southern States, it is not an offence if one provides sexual favours for immediate monetary consideration. But acts supporting, facilitating and promoting prostitution are frowned upon. Sections 223, 224, and 225 of the Criminal Code ascribe penalties for the activities of pimps, owners of brothels, and cross-border human traffickers.
Below is Section 223 of the Criminal Code:
“Any person who procures a girl or woman who is under the age of eighteen years to have an unlawful carnal connection with any other person or persons, either in Nigeria or elsewhere;
“Or procures a woman or girl to become a common prostitute, either in Nigeria or elsewhere;
“Or procures a woman or girl to leave Nigeria with the intent that she may become an inmate of a brothel elsewhere;
“Or procures a woman or girl to leave her usual place of abode in Nigeria, with the intent that she may, for the purposes of prostitution, become an inmate of a brothel, either in Nigeria or elsewhere; is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
“A person cannot be convicted of any of the offences defined in this section upon the uncorroborated testimony of one witness.”
The offender may be arrested without a warrant.
From the excerpt above, we see that prostitution is not expressly prohibited per the Criminal Code.
In the Federal Capital where the Penal Code Act, Federal Capital of Abuja, 1990, is practised, prostitution and soliciting for prostitutes are offences. Chapter 532 of the FCT Penal Code deals with prostitution. There are meted-out punishments on defaulters, however, in court, it might be difficult to penalise dealings with prostitutes based on these reasons because in doing so, the right to freedom of association is breached.
TYPES OF PROSTITUTION PRACTICED IN NIGERIA
There are several types
of prostitution, you can see around you if you pay attention to your surroundings. Many people have limited knowledge of what prostitution is, some just know only about brothels or freelance prostitution practised by students of Nigerian tertiary institutions. But prostitution is more than that. In the following paragraphs, we will briefly discuss the types of prostitution in Nigeria.
The first and probably the most common type of prostitution practised in Nigeria is that which is mostly practised in hotels, brothels and bars where prostitutes have rented rooms to engage in sex for cash. This is known as institutional prostitution.
The next common type of prostitution is freelance prostitution where single-sex workers stay often in their homes and go out to meet patrons when there’s a request for sex. This is common among students in Nigerian higher institutions
Another type of prostitution in Nigeria is corporate prostitution. This type is found in the corporate sectors of the country. In this case, workers are compelled to engage in sexual activity with another person (their boss or clients) for a favour. Female workers may sleep with their bosses to get a promotion or keep their jobs. To meet targets, some female workers have been known to sleep with their clients.
The last form of prostitution in Nigeria has to do with smuggling and human trafficking to foreign countries. Several syndicates smuggle Nigerian women and children to other countries for sex work or child labour. Italy, Lebanon, Oman and most Asian countries are the likely destinations where the trafficked persons are sent to be sold into prostitution. The Nigerian Criminal System strictly forbids this type of prostitution and there are grave consequences meted out to defaulters found guilty by a competent court of law.
Although the act of prostitution in Southern Nigeria is regarded as illegal based on the prevailing religious and traditional sentiments in the region, it is not regarded as a crime by the Nigerian Constitution and the Criminal Code, as long the public is not affected in the process. In the Northern States where the Islamic Penal Code is practised, prostitution is illegal.