Our CEO, a global advocate for key populations in Nigeria, Martin-Mary Falana has strongly condemned the arrest of sex workers in Ondo State saying sex workers are ostracized, marginalized folks who are often drug addicts with little or no public sympathy or support, and are easy prey for extortion and assault by the police.
Speaking with the media on the significance of the action of the COVID-19 Task Force, Martin-Mary Falana lamented that amidst COVID-19, they are not seen as an essential part of the society and are not on the list of palliative packages as if they are not also affected by the lockdown.
Citing several places where people have violated the same COVID-19 rules in the state recently ditto the distribution of FACE MASKS by the state government in Oja-Oba. Mr. Falana said “even if they have acted against the rules, I believe they can be warned against subsequent actions. I think they should be granted pardon with immediate effect”
While stressing that majority of sex workers are affected by their own sexuality, sexual curiosity and need to have money, Mr. Falana said it would be better for government to address the causes of what has led a number of women/ladies/girls into prostitution.
Drawing from the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery in the Bible, Mr. Falana said “let he that is without sin cast the first stone” and that no particular part of the Constitution prohibits prostitution in Nigeria.
“However, Prostitution in Nigeria is illegal in all Northern States that practice Islamic penal code. In Southern Nigeria, the activities of pimps or madams, underage prostitution and the operation or ownership of brothels are penalized under sections 223, 224, and 225 of the Nigerian Criminal Code.
The security and welfare of the good people of Nigeria are the primary purpose of government, however government must be lawful and law abiding in achieving such purpose. It is advised that constitutional procedures and statutory processes should be engaged at all times to avoid causing more problems in attempting to solve one.
We must conquer COVID-19 without violating fundamental human rights of Nigerians, even when such rights may be restricted. “Stay at Home and Stay Healthy” and the brothels are their homes. Sex workers live in the brothels and they pay rents regularly to the brothel owners.
Whether it is legal or illegal, they still operate and provide hospitality to many. Some who would have raped our girls and women in our society still see their services as a better option. They are essential! Prostitution is a profession just like any other since they make money from it. In fact, criminalizing it has evidently not been able to stop it and nothing would. Now if government still feels criminalizing it is the best option, then those who patronize prostitutes should also be punished”, he reiterated.
He therefore called on government and other stakeholders to extend their hands of charity to the sex workers in our society.
“They need food and other commodities this period. Sex workers of all genders have been amongst the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lock downs, self-isolation and travel restrictions have put sex workers out of work, pressurizing some onto the streets and into destitution, where the risks are heightened by the pandemic”, he added.
Mr. Falana however commended the efforts of the State government in ensuring behaviour maintenance activities including the provision of HIV prevention commodities through the Ondo State Agency for the Control of AIDS (ODSACA).