It is difficult to answer questions about how Nigeria can and should achieve sustainable economic, social and political growth. This column takes a look at well known development economic theories and applies them to the unique Nigerian context.


Commercial sex in Nigeria: Is regulation an option?

Martha Sambe

Martha Sambe

Martha is a graduate of Development Economics and International Cooperation. She enjoys researching topics in development, sociology, and religion.

There are around 176,400 female sex workers in Nigeria and despite their presence in most cities, these women face marginalisation because of the nature of their work. This has often resulted in gross human rights abuses, as we saw with the unwarranted arrest and molestation of women in Abuja, and in some cases death, as was witnessed in Port Harcourt in 2019.

Even though sex workers are often treated as second-class citizens, commercial sex work is still seen as a viable means of income for many women across Nigeria and indeed the world.


Regulating Sex Work

Although the Nigerian Constitution does not criminalise sex work, the prevailing attitude towards sex workers in the country is reflective of what Gail Pheterson describes as the whore stigma, a societal belief that a woman's social worth and rights as a citizen are based on her ability to distance herself from the identity of a "whore".

In Nigeria, sex workers are victims of this stigma through both physical and verbal abuse at the hands of regular citizens and those in law enforcement. A common example of this is the fact that women are often called "Ashewo"— the Yoruba word for a woman who has sex for money—as a derogatory term.

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