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Nigeria-Poverty,Prostitution and Human Trafficking

According to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (also referred to as the Trafficking Protocol), an international set of diplomatic guidelines established by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime,adopted by the United Nations in Palermo, Italy in 2000,human trafficking is defined as  “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth [above] shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth [above] have been used. ”

Simply put,human trafficking is a form of slavery as it involves trade in people for the purpose of labour or commercial sexual exploitation.Much of western Europe and the United states are listed as top destinations for victims of human trafficking. Countries that are major sources of trafficked persons include Thailand, China, Nigeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Sierra Leone, and Romania.A look at the list above,shows that the source countries are mainly poor,while the destination countries are affluent.Obviously,the destination countries have to be rich enough to pay for the services of the victims.Clearly the disparity,in wealth between the source and destination countries,helps to explain,to some extent,the vigour  and resilience of human trafficking.As long as destination countries are seen to provide opportunities,for self-improvement,that are absent in source countries,labour and sex trafficking will persist.

However with sex trafficking,forced commercial sexual exploitation,it is not just the difference in wealth between home and host countries that is driving it. The asymmetry in the legality of prostitution,between home and host countries,is a key factor.In most of these source countries,prostitution is illegal.Being illegal,prostitution is not recognized by the law as a legitimate activity,neither can it be regulated.As a result,the prostitutes have no rights and are completely vulnerable,not only to  sexually transmitted diseases,pimps and extortionate  “security” agencies,but also to traffickers,as they can have no recourse to the protection of the law.Legalizing prostitution will empower the prostitutes by giving them rights that can be legally enforced,which would give them some protection against the predators that are the scourge of the night-life business.

Legalizing prostitution calls for more guts and rationality than are usually displayed by these source countries’ governments.For a start,in most of these countries,people are religious  and subscribe to the view that prostitution is a sin.Sure,i agree.But the fact it is a sin does not have to make it a crime.It is not the business of the state to determine an individual’s route to heaven,paradise or spiritual harmony.The business of the state is the protection of life and property,and facilitating the individual’s pursuit of happiness within that remit.The government should not have any spiritual revelation,not to talk of imposing it on anybody.This is the essence of the church-state divide.This cotract restricts the government to a secular interpretation and limitation of it’s interventions.Make no mistake about it,prostitution is driven by poverty.Just look at it’s definition:it is the rendering of sexual service by one person to another,in return for payment.Poverty fosters prostitution.Given that fact,we are better off acknowledging and regulating it,rather than ignoring it,as it is not going to disappear anytime soon.


3 responses to “Nigeria-Poverty,Prostitution and Human Trafficking

  1. codliveroil December 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    No doubt poverty is a key push factor for people becoming prostitution. But is by no means the whole story.

    The list of countries you mentioned, only Sierra Leone is recognised to be a low income country. There are many poor countries who are not on that list for instance Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Mali etc are not present as top traffickers on this list. What Nigeria is doing there sadly is no surprise. The liking of get rich quick schemes by Nigerians no matter how dubious, reflects this. Hence Nigeria’s presence in such a group.

    I can’t comment about the other nations especially the European ones, even though they are relatively poor compared to Western Europe, they are still light years ahead of much of Africa.

    Stigmatising prostitutes gets nowhere, but then again. I’m not in favour of the export of Nigerian women (or any other women for that matter) overseas as a commodity. Go to many streets in Italy and parts of the Netherlands and Nigerian women are known to be prostitutes.

    The government as part of it’s efforts should set up realistic alternatives to entice women away from prostitution. I mean something more meaningful than “cottage industries”, like weaving raffia mats, pot making and sewing. They need to be offered something that they can really make a living from. Those engaged in prostitution should be encouraged to stay at home (as in remain in Nigeria, not in their residential homes), and be given the rights other workers have.

    I thought you would have tackled this issue addressing the specifics of the Nigerian dimension more closely. Today we hear of thousands of Nigerian women in Mali engaged in prostitution. By any stretch of the imagination, Mali is not a rich country but yet Nigerian women are there in numbers. Do Malian men pay more for their services?

    This post seems to be more removed than what I imagined it to be. Maybe you may address it again from the Nigerian angle more closely in the future.

    Thanks for raising it though.

    • henryik2009 December 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm

      Hi codliveroil
      Thanks for your comment.I think we can agree that the level of corruption in Nigeria is much higher than in other African countries.It should be no surprise therefore,that Nigerian ladies would be that much more ‘infected’.As you put it,Nigerians love ‘get-rich-quick schemes’.Nigeria is also notorious for another
      commodity:denial.Instead of pretending that Nigerians are holier than everybody else,i was just saying that by giving prostitutes rights,we would be improving their lot here,and stemming the out-flow.To provide realistic alternatives,as you suggest, would take real governance on the part of the state,which we all know is beyond the government.But legalization requires only a stroke of the pen,which puts it within reach,today.
      The ladies in Mali were probably those who could not complete the ‘journey’ to their destinations.And it is not just Mali,but Ghana,Cote D’ivoire,Sudan,you name it.This is the scary thing about sex trafficking.Ladies are tricked into thinking they are heading for ‘Europe’,only to end up in places and conditions worse than those they left behind.Imagine the numbers wasted en route.Reminiscent of the slave trade,is it not?My proposal simply makes the most of an unfortunate situation.

  2. codliveroil December 23, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Great response to an unsavoury issue. The response focused more closely on Nigeria’s involvement with this ‘trade'”.

    True many must have perished along the way, very sad.

    Surely it would take more than a “stroke of the pen as you said”. The police and prostitutes would need to be made aware of the new legal landscape.

    Agreed denial is no answer to this scourge, or just stating that the women concerned only come from one part of the country is an answer either, and saying girls where they come from are not engaged in such business. The problem has to be embraced .
    and tackled. I think the steps you suggested are positive non-judgemental and helpful.

    Which parent could look into the eyes of their daughter and want them to turn into a prostitute? Female children have to offered a better future. Money is there, it just ends up in the wrong places.

    Thank you.

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