A community based organization of sex workers, Ohotu Diamond Women Initiative (ODWI) has called on the Nigerian Police to stop abuse on sex workers.
In a statement made available to newsmen, the organization laments over the widely misunderstanding status about sex work.
“The illegal status of sex work in most countries, including Nigeria has not eradicated prostitution. Instead, criminalization has increased sex workers vulnerability to human rights abuses and created fertile ground for police exploitation, especially of brothel and street-based sex workers.
“Sex workers deserve the basic respect and protection from violence that each nation owes its citizens. But in many settings, police abuse of sex workers receives scant public attention despite its entrenched global reality. Street and brothel-based female sex workers, one of Lagos and Abuja most vulnerable populations, find themselves targeted for arrest by police, and they experience high levels of violence that go unpunished. Current city and law enforcement policies towards sex workers create a cycle of arrest that does not result in appropriate or long term solutions for the community or sex workers,” the statement reads in part.
On the challenges sex workers face, it said: “The challenge that we face as 50 participants from different L.G.As are almost similar. Many of us face violence and discrimination on a regular basis. Regardless of which State or tribe we are from, many of us have experienced being raped, verbally, emotionally and physically abused by police, clients and community members.
“There is an unfair discrimination from service providers. Sex workers are not protected or defended by the law when they are exploited and abused. We demand that these violations stop immediately and decisive action is taken against perpetrators.”
The statement further revealed how sex workers suffer abuse from the Nigerian Police Officers. “Thirty percent of sex workers interviewed told researchers that they had been threatened with violence by police officers, while 27% actually experienced violence at the hands of police. Reported incidents included officers physically grabbing and kicking, as well as beating them; one incident of rape; one woman was stalked by a police officer; and throwing food at one subject. Sexual harassment included handling of body parts; giving women cigarettes in exchange for sex; and police offering not to arrest sex workers in exchange for sexual services.
“Several times the Police have raided our hotels beating, stealing and having sex with us without protection.”
In a bid to curtail the abuses sex workers suffer from Policemen, the Executive Director of SafeHeaven Development Initiative, Margaret Onah has criticised the method of which Policemen uses to extort money from sex workers and abuse.
According to Onah, the Nigerian Policemen are not mindful of the fundamental human rights that should be accorded to sex workers.
“It is dehumanising when Policemen abuses, sex workers the way they do. We are using this channel to voice out our pains in the course of survival. The government needs to do something about it. It is better if sex workers are charged to court than naming them, harassing them, stealing their money, stealing their properties, and having sex with them unprotected.”
Speaking on what could be done to end the abuse by Policemen, she said: “the Police needs to re-strategise. The fact that sex work is illegal doesn’t mean that they should kill anyone find doing the job.
“Sex workers are citizen of this country first of all, and they need to be respected like every other citizen.”
Speaking on harassment faced with Policemen, Esther Eghosa said: “Time without numbers, the Policemen break our doors to start packing us like goats to the station. If you don’t have money to bail yourself, they will say they want to sleep with you unprotected which is very bad.
Eghosa, who is a sex worker further stress, “As a woman in the brothel, we protect ourselves, we use condoms, but with the Policemen, you don’t have a say.”
Source: The Nation