Sex Work na Work – Michael Akanji

Editorial: In the past one week the Nigerian government has come under a lot of criticism when the police launched a raid on Nightclubs in Abuja, and in the process ended up arresting close to a hundred women, who were then charged with prostitution and arraigned in a court of justice.

The weird thing about these arrests is that sex work is actually not a crime in Nigeria although Chapter 21 of the Nigerian Criminal Code penalises the activities of pimps, brothel operators, underage sex workers and their patrons, no mention is made of sex workers.

Not only were the women abducted from Nightclubs, they were also sexually assaulted by the officers in charge of the arrests (we shouldn’t fail to mention that the policemen used pure water sachets in lieu of condoms.)

In this article Michael Akanji examines labour rights, dehumanization of persons labelled ‘prostitutes’ and a whole slew of other issues bordering on human rights abuse.

It is important that we know that sex work is a very big industry and respect for labor rights involves not dehumanizing the workers within that establishment by calling some persons ”prostitutes”.

If in ignorance a police spokesperson claims that because sex-workers do not pay taxes it means they do not have rights. This translates to the point that every other informal sector and/or persona that don’t pay tax should be dehumanized by the police.

Body policing and gendered dehumanization is disgusting and coming from the government that has a mandate to protect all irrespective of their sex shows that we have a set that respects not even Nigeria and Nigerians.

The term sex workers’ rights encompasses a variety of aims being pursued globally by individuals and organizations that specifically involve the human, health, and labor rights of sex workers and their clients.

Law of demand and supply, sex work is contributing to the economy. Children are kept in schools, traders are kept in business… sex-workers pay taxes… At least VAT…

Don’t blame your failed tax system on sex workers and use that to dehumanize them… Fix your tax system and your labour laws… Sex work is work and not a crime.

Labour rights need to be reformed to include sex work. Any changes to labour laws to include sex workers should not create an underclass of unregulated workers who do not benefit from rights, and should be structured in a way that benefits the largest number of sex workers.

It is myopic to assume that only female-identified persons can be sex workers, just like every field sex workers are diverse, too, male sex workers, trans sex workers, queer sex workers etc.

General recommendation 19, the CEDAW Committee observed, “[p]rostitutes are especially vulnerable to violence because their status, which may be unlawful, tends to marginalize them. They need the equal protection of laws against rape and other forms of violence.”

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