By Chigoziem Ellen Onugha Esq
As human beings, one of the things we find so difficult to desist from doing is the setting apart of morals from laws. There is a common law principle which states:
“for something to be an offence, it must be contained in a written law and with a punishment attached to it”
Invariably, we have found ourselves acting as our conscience directs and not as the law states. I think we have gotten to that point where we need to assume our conscience and laws were parcels of land adjacent to each other, where beakers would be used to create boundaries to avoid trespass.
Sex work is not contained in any Nigerian law as an offence, because it is a way of life which when juxtaposed with effect on society, would probably rate least. As a right-thinking member of the society, you would not expect to see a man and a woman on the road carrying out any sexual activities, except if they are both mentally enslaved. If this affair is private rather than public and is not contained in any written law as an offence, I beg to be educated on what informs the minds of the society in violating the fundamental human rights of persons who are called “Female Sex Workers”.
Unfortunately, the law goes beyond morals. Therefore, a person’s moral values should not compromise or prejudice the provisions of the law.
Lawyers Alert Nigeria in their recent publication of report of violations in Nigeria, educates thus:
- The Federal Capital Territory has the highest rate of violation of Female Sex Workers
- Kogi State and Benue State come immediately after the Federal Capital Territory
- Bornu State and Lagos State have the least amount of violation of Female Sex Workers.
- Persons between 20 to 24 have a high violation rate by 65%
- Persons between 25 to 40 follow the list by 29%
- Persons between 10 to 19 rank as the group with the least violation rate by 6%
The report further gives an expository to the various forms of violations these persons (Female Sex Workers) go through and they are as follows:
- Verbal Abuse 19%
- Emotional Abuse 17%
- Privacy 10%
- Blackmailing 3%
- Freedom of Movement 7%
- Forced Detention 1%
- Physical Abuse 7%
- Harassment 9%
- Sexual Exploitation 6%
A cursory look at the statistics above, bares a display of morality which can by investigation of some other words be termed display of double standard. An enquiry into the recent raiding of women in Abuja by men of Abuja Environmental Protection Board, Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security and other various security agencies in Nigeria with disparate visions and modes of operation from matters like this, in the name of ridding the society of sin, also gives an expository to the trespass to morals in legal societal issues.
Success of the nation (Nigeria) leans extremely on the level of importance we attach to matters and what matters we attach high level of importance to. Amidst the chaos and economic redundancy the country is facing, detention and violation of the fundamental human rights of Female Sex Workers is a distraction from the goal. On this basis, I recommend the following:
- That a deliberate and conscious effort should be made by law enforcement agencies in carrying out their functions.
- That law enforcement agencies should engage in human rights trainings and studies as a course for qualification.
- That Female Sex Work should be seen as “just a name” that it is, distinct from persons who are involved in the acts of female sex work. Because I believe that would help law enforcement agencies to see them as human beings and also treat them as human beings.
Section 405 (1) (d) of the Penal Code Act, chapter 53 LFN (Abuja) defines vagabond as thus:
“A common prostitute behaving in a disorderly or indecent manner in a public place or persistently importuning or soliciting persons for the purpose of prostitution”
The law is like a manual by which we all (with no exception to a particular people) should live. Explicitly observed in the afore stated provision is the fact that prostitution is not a crime in the Penal Code Act, chapter 53 LFN (Abuja). Rather, what constitutes a crime in this Act is a disorderly or indecent behaviour in a public place persistently importuning or soliciting persons for the purpose of prostitution.
I strongly believe that meddling in the affairs of persons with regards to their private lives and how they choose to live it is rather indecent and a show of irresponsibility.
For better examination and study of the report made mention of above, kindly visit Lawyers Alert Nigeria website @lawyersalertnigeria.org.