The Socio–economic Factors And Effects Of Prostitution In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Economics

The Socio–economic Factors And Effects Of Prostitution In Nigeria


This study deals with the problem of prostitution in FCT Abuja, Nigeria. The main objective of the study is to identify the socio economic factors and condition that are associated with the profession. It is an attempt to study socio economic background, pattern of establishment, social organization and modes of operation of the prostitutes with a view to suggesting effective ways of reducing prostitution. A cross-sectional survey design was adopted for the study. A total of 150 prostitutes form the sample of the study. Multi-stage sampling technique involving cluster and simple random sampling methods were used to select the respondents. The major instrument for data collection was the interview. Descriptive statistics such as frequency tables and percentages were used in analyzing the data collected. The findings revealed that the driving force behind prostitution is economic gain. Prostitutes are found to have pathological problems at their backgrounds and the social relations amongst them are based on primordial pattern. Prostitution has both the positive and negative effects. Considering the fact that all attempts at legislation throughout history have not succeeded in eradicating prostitution, this paper calls for urgent steps toward the reduction of prostitution in the country. Such steps include the provision of job opportunities, public enlightenment, reformation and rehabilitation programmes, provision of facilities for recreation, sports and cultural activities, formal education of the illiterate and unskilled prostitutes and the introduction of sex education in the curriculum of secondary schools and tertiary institutions.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Clinard (1968; 371-387) argues that prostitution is a deviant behavior – a manifestation of a state of anomie in which society fails to provide certain opportunities for individuals to achieve the goals set by the institutions of the society. He argues further that prostitutes have a separate subculture with norms and values that are directly opposed to that of the larger society to the extent that they often run foul of the laws of the society. The prostitute’s subculture is usually characterized by secrecy, stigma, and intense occupational involvement and difficulties in leaving the profession. Its ties with criminal underworld leave the prostitute open to harassment not only from police but from other prostitutes and other members of the criminal population.

In line with these views, Thomas (1980) posited that women enter prostitution because of pathological problems at their backgrounds – a broken home, parental death or neglect, separation of parents, maladjustment or emotional disturbance that are conducive to prostitution and other deviant behaviors. Samir (1965) argues that ecological factors such as urbanization and migration (movements or change of residence) may easily engender the necessary conditions often associated with prostitution. He argues that prostitution must be explained and interpreted within the context of the decline in kinship, conflict between institutions, secularism, disorganization, mobility and anomie which to a great extent determine the main features of any society undergoing change.

Prostitution may also be influenced by economic need or poverty. Davis (1937) argues that prostitution is based on economic exchange of relationships between the prostitute and the customer, one participating for pleasure and the other for money. Since prostitution is a contractual relation in which services are traded (usually in terms of an exchange for money) sex is placed in an economic context. He argues further that the sexual response of the prostitute does not hinge upon the personality of the other party, but upon the reward. The response of the customer likewise does not depend upon the particular identity of the prostitute, but upon the bodily gratification. He maintains that prostitution has economic causes but rejects any attempt to abolish prostitution by eliminating only the economic factor. It has been observed that some girls enter into prostitution because they have no other means of support but the mere inability of women to secure a living wage is far from being the most fundamental cause of prostitution. Clinard (1968:379) noted that other than the fact that prostitutes primarily came from the lower socio-economic groups and often slum areas, there is no evidence to show that they enter this profession, because of poverty, even though they may desire to better their economic needs. Thus poverty or economic need is a necessary factor but not a sufficient one, hence its removal cannot solve the problem.

The feminists and other writers like Frances Heidenson (1968) and Karen & Rosenblum (1975) explained prostitution in terms of sex roles and power relationships between males and females sexuality. They argued that the significant questions to ask are; who controls what and who has power over whom? They believed that the real nature of prostitution is that the man buys power over a short period of time. The prostitute only gets something for nothing – she has been paid for temporary use of her body. They argued further that women become prostitutes because they are primarily defined by men as sexual objects; they are not adequately socialized in sexual and non-sexual interaction, and above all they have lower access than men to educational, economic and political resources.

The feminist also argued that the previous works have studied prostitution as a distinct sphere of existence apart from family and other institutions of the society. Variables such as class, status power, and gender roles and so on were not considered important for understanding prostitution. They maintained that prostitution cannot be studied in isolation from the social structure of the society; economics, family, law, religion, politics and so on. Prostitution must be related to some basic conditions in society along with the whole role of sexuality in human existence; it is grounded in the most powerful human sexual urge or basic instincts. This natural instincts/urge cannot be abolished by legislation against prostitution.

The phenomenon of prostitution is a social problem that exists throughout mans recorded history. Prostitution has often been described as the world’s oldest profession (Samir, 1965). There is no known society be it traditional or modern that exist without some form of prostitution. Prostitution is universal but it is generally disapproved of in most societies. While prostitution is illegal in many societies, the act of soliciting is generally punished by the law (Clinard 1968-375). In Nigeria, section 249(a) of the criminal code 1944 provides penalties for prostitution. It states that “every common prostitute behaving in a disorderly or indecent manner in any public place loitering and persistently importuning or soliciting persons for the purpose of prostitution shall be deemed idle and disorderly persons, and shall be liable to imprisonment for one month (criminal code 1944 cited in Abdullahi, 1991). However, we are not unaware of the fact that prostitution is practiced in variety of ways by either males or females. A prostitute is usually a woman who accepts money for her sexual services to other men but there are also male prostitutes who provide commercial sex to other men rather than women. This paper will focus on female prostitution and is divided into fivesections. The first section presents the statement of research problem, research questions, and aim and objectives of the study. The second section provides the definition, developmental process, types and characteristics of prostitution. The third section will discuss the socio-economic factors and effects of prostitution in Nigeria. The fourth section presents the Methodology, Data analysis and results. The last section is the Discussion of findings, Conclusion and Recommendations.

1.2 Statement of Research Problem

Although there is abundant data to suggest that prostitution in Nigeria has reached alarming proportions; there has been increase in all types of prostitution including lower class prostitution which is more commonly practised by illiterate and unskilled prostitutes, there is the growing band of upper class prostitutes, often well educated and sophisticated who care mostly for the powerful elites in the country. Nevertheless, prostitution has not been given the desired attention by the researchers.

Yet prostitution has been subjected to many inaccuracies and popular misconception. It appears in fact that prostitution thrives more in the cities than in the rural areas especially in slum and highly densely populated areas where business and commercial houses like hotels, brothels super guest houses, joints, night clubs and etc, are located in which cash transaction is common. It is ironical that our knowledge of prostitution is either based on hearsay or still reflects our moral and value judgments. Though little is known of the prostitutes’ background and conditions that predispose her towards prostitution; Moralists and other groups have consistently judged and condemned both the prostitute and her profession although for different reasons. It is against this backdrop that this study is conceived.

This study however rejects any such moral charges and dogmatic generalizations. In an attempt to study prostitution in a changing community like FCT Abuja, Nigeria there appear to be certain basic questions that we want to know their answer;

What kind of prostitutes that gather here? What is their socio-economic background? How do they enter the profession? What are the socio-economic factors or conditions that are associated with prostitution? What type of relationship do they have with their clients and other prostitutes? What is their mode of operation? What are the effects of prostitution and how can we reduce prostitution in Nigeria. Questions such as these and many more yet unanswered in the mind of an average sociologist or a criminologist have created the central problem that prompted this research.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The general aim of the study is to explore the nature of prostitution in Nigeria. The specific objectives are to:

  1. Study the socio-economic background of the prostitutes
  2. Identify the socio-economic factors or conditions associated with the profession.
  3. Study the pattern of establishment, social organization and modes of operation of the prostitutes.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What are the socio-economic factors or conditions associated with prostitution?
  2. What are the pattern of prostitution involvement, social organization and modes of operation?

1.5 Significance of Study

The essence of this study is to create awareness on the socio-economic factors of prostitution and how this activity is affecting the country. The findings of the study will be useful to policy-makers both socially and economically.

1.6 Scope and Limitation

This study is focused on prostitution, its cause and effect. The study is limited by location. The federal capital territory has been selected for study. Also, the prostitution referred to in this study is the female kind of prostitution. All members enrolled in this study had their identities hidden.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Conclusion

From the foregoing, it is clear that prostitution is a complex social problem that is further complicated by the host of preconceived ideas, prejudices and attitudes that are deeply ingrained in the public mind. This study was undertaken in FCT, Abuja, in order to throw more light on the nature of prostitution in Nigeria. The study focused on the socio- economic background of prostitutes and the underlying factors or conditions that are usually associated with prostitution.

An attempt was also made to study the pattern of establishment, social organization and modes of operation of the prostitutes. In our efforts to explain the causes of prostitution in Nigeria, we invariably came across some socio-economic factors or conditions that led women to prostitution-early sexual experience, feeble mindedness, social and economic conditions, greediness and competition, prostitute subcultures, family disorganization and ecological considerations. Needless to say that none of these factors have fully accounted for the existence of prostitution in the society.

From the language of a functionalist sociologist, prostitution has both positive and negative functions. Prostitution performs positive functions because of the varied and extensive sexual needs of men and the necessity to protect marriage and family institutions in the society. However, the negative effects of prostitution have far reaching implications than the positive ones. Prostitution is not only a necessary vice but constitutes moral, social and medical threats to the well being of the society. But while attempts have been made towards eliminating prostitution, the problem remained unresolved. All attempts by the western countries like England, France, Italy, Japan, US and even Russia to legislate prostitution out of existence were largely futile. Thus the issue of prostitution is not lack of severe legislations or sanctions, or lack of regulation in which licenses are issued to prostitutes who want to register with brothels or hotels. Outlawing or closing of prostitutes houses cannot solve the problem. Neither would the expulsion order, demolishing or relocating the prostitutes can change the situation, for whatever policy government adopts the problem will continue to exist.

5.2 Recommendation

Considering the fact that all efforts and methods to abolish prostitution have failed, this study recommends the possible remedies that can only reduce the problem.

  1. Since it has been found that prostitutes reflect pathological backgrounds, government should provide a means of rehabilitating and reforming the prostitutes. To this end all appropriate means shall be used including religious care, vocational education, guidance and counseling, training, employment and strengthening of moral character. Along with institutional housing, the government with the assistance of welfare agencies should provide facilities for recreation, sports and cultural activities particularly to those prostitutes advanced in age and young girls who are found to be emotionally disturbed or socially maladjusted.
  2. Similarly, since it has been found that family breakdown and divorce leads to prostitution of young girls; couples or parents should be educated to ensure stable marriages and homes.

Formal education of illiterate and unskilled prostitutes should be encouraged. Government should encourage the introduction of sex education in the curriculum of secondary schools and tertiary institutions. There should be public enlightenment programmes on HIV/AIDS and other venereal diseases and the dangers inherent in having indiscriminate sex and engaging the services of a prostitute. Through sexual education and public enlightenment we can develop a healthy society and improve the quality of relationships between men and women. Lastly, there is need for the government to create jobs for the citizens so that prostitution in the country can be reduced. If such women are provided with job opportunities, prostitution would be curtailed since some of these girls indulge in deviant acts as a result of frustration.

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