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‘Sex workers too have human rights’

The participants in a group photograph with the resource persons.

By Martin Iyonguvihi

Sex workers in Nigeria are human beings and citizens of the country, and as such are entitled to the protection of the law and the enjoyment of the fundamental rights and freedoms provided for under the Constitution of Nigeria.

This was disclosed on Friday, at a one-day workshop for Police and other security personnel on human rights needs for sex workers and other vulnerable populations.

The workshop organized by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Concerned Women International Development Initiative (CWIDI), in partnership with African Women Development Fund took place at Chateau De Victoria Hotel in Makurdi.

Lecturing on the topic: ‘Human Rights Instrument/Remedies for Sex Workers’ the resource person, Dr Yangeen Ornguga, a lecturer from Faculty of Law with Benue State University, said the police and other security personnel must act within the law when they effect arrests and detain sex workers.

“Sex workers are human beings and are entitled to enjoy the fundamental rights provided for or guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution.

“Just like the constitution says, every citizen of this country is entitled to equal protection by the law, even as this people are sex workers, they are Nigerian citizens, so they are entitled to the protection of the Nigerian law as human beings.

He further said sex workers face severe human rights abuse in Nigeria as law enforcements agencies are in the habit of violating their fundamental rights in the course of their duties.

“They act outside the law when they break into apartments to arrest women accused of being sex workers.

“The breaking in and arrest of sex workers by the Police is a violation of the women’s right to privacy as guaranteed and protected under Section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution. Police indecently search the women and dispossess them of their money when they raid their apartments,” he maintained.

Lecturing on the relationship between security personnel and sex workers, another facilitator, Barr Amina Efu, said that to avoid sexual harassment, assault, battery, extortion of sex workers and indiscriminate arrest and an unlawful crackdown on brothels and hotels by security personnel, the Command must ensure that arrest is done in line with the stipulated laws, ensure proper investigation and gathering of evidence/facts finding without torture.

She said a proper charge should be brought before the appropriate court within 24 hours, or 48 hours, or obtain leave of the court. And follow through with the prosecution of the accused person till the final determination of the suit.

Earlier, the Program Officer for the state, Becky Gbihi said the organization objective is to promote gender equality, prevent gender-based violence and other ill health surrounding mostly women. The training is to improve their knowledge on human right as enshrined in Nigerian Constitution and other legal and policy frame work on violence against women and girls, thereby making them to have a mental shift in their interactions with the most vulnerable in the society (sex workers), as they discharge their duties.

She also said that the workshop aims to support law enforcement officials to uphold Nigeria law in ways that prevent the violation of sex workers’ constitutional and human rights and enhanced the knowledge of security personnel on the need to advocate for women’s and girls’ rights most especially sex workers.

In their separate reactions, CSP Shulammite Otokpa of the Benue Police Command, and ACC Venmak Sunday, NSCDC, Benue Command expressed their appreciation to the organizers for the knowledge the workshop has impacted on them, saying that the training has enlightened them that sex workers are not less human beings as they had earlier postulated but human beings whose rights must be respected.

They promised to extend the knowledge gained to their various commands and colleagues to ensure that the fundamental rights of sex workers and other vulnerable persons in society are protected by security personnel.

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