Fall 2023 Sex Worker Advocate Interviews

Enemo Interview



Amaka Enemo is a Nigerian advocate for sex workers and currently holds the position of the National Coordinator for the Nigerian Sex Workers Association (NSWA). As a former sex worker herself, Enemo is passionate about providing a comfortable space for sex workers to ensure their health and safety. She coordinates approximately 40 organizations, collectively comprising all the sex worker organizations across Nigeria. The NSWA provides health services to sex workers, specifically those who are HIV-positive. Enemo also works with the social aspect of sex work, as she provides a safe space for sex workers to come and talk if needed. If sex workers are arrested, she helps mitigate the situation, and legal help is offered if needed. Enemo worked as a sex worker prior to her current job, and she feels as though this helps her understand and offer assistance to sex workers on a deeper, more personal level. She can offer help to sex workers from the stance of both a knowledgeable expert and a former person in their position.

Enemo describes how different aspects of a service must be explicitly paid for. “​​He paid you just to fuck you, and at the end, they will say, ‘Oh, we want romance,’ no romance is different. How much you go pay for romance? Do you understand? We are here to fuck, we call it fuck.” In her eyes, sex work is simple: “using what I have to get what I don’t have.” Many sex workers likely share this belief. Their jobs are purely sex, and anything more, such as romance, is an extra fee as the workers are not significant others. They are not in a relationship with their client beyond the transactional one, which helps to maintain a divide between work and personal life. In Nigeria, some sex workers end their careers due to marriage, like Enemo, but some maintain their jobs. This is just one reason that a manufactured identity, as theorized by scholars like Teela Sanders, is so important. It protects sex workers by allowing for two separate lives, two separate mindsets, and separate types of relationships – transactional/professional and emotional/intimate.

NSWA provides services for male, female, transgender, and LGBTQ sex workers. Enemo talked to us about the danger of being LGBTQ in Nigeria because of the overall conservative and religious beliefs of the population. The Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill was signed into law in 2014. The law criminalizes public display of affection between same-sex couples. The law imposes a 14-year prison sentence on anyone who enters a same-sex marriage. The NSWA tries to keep their LGBTQ sex workers safe by keeping their identities private. The organization’s social media accounts do not explicitly advertise that they provide services to LGBTQ sex workers, but Enemo makes it clear that they do not discriminate based on sexuality or gender identity.

An overarching theme of the conversation was Enemo’s challenges with the police and law enforcement. She described a typical encounter with police for sex workers in brothels. Each month, the workers pay a certain amount of money to the brothel owners, which Enemo called “police money,” to prevent arrests. However, if they mistakenly do not pay that money, being arrested becomes a real possibility, or they will be fined 10,000 Naira. It’s much more dangerous, however, to primarily work on the street.

Enemo still remembers when she was arrested by the police while working as a street sex worker. She mentioned on multiple occasions that the police are the “highest nightmare… They are the highest nightmare of every sex worker…” 61 sex workers were arrested that night, and they received many threats from the police. The sex workers begged to be taken to the courts instead of immediately being put in prison. The police said that their offense was loitering, and they had to pay 1,000 Naira, which is equivalent to one US dollar, to be bailed out of jail. Their other option was to do community service for one month. The sex workers decided to pay the money instead of doing community service.

The laws in Nigeria do not criminalize sex work unless a sex worker is “causing a nuisance.”  The criminalization of the field and clients reduces the business that sex workers receive and, thus, the money they make. For some people, being a sex worker is their full-time job, their main source of income. It is crucial for sex workers to be protected by both law enforcement and legislation to ensure the safety and security of everyone involved.

We enjoyed the time we had to speak with Ms. Enemo and greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the work she does. She offered insight into the lives of sex workers in Nigeria, and spoke about the work she does now to protect current sex workers. We are inspired by her efforts to help others and make Nigeria a safer place for people working in her industry.


Amaka Enemo: Yes.


Samantha: That was very loud.


Eva: and are we also able to record the video of your interview?


Amaka Enemo: Oh- okay!


Eva: Okay, thank you. Um, would you prefer that we use a fake name for you or your real name?


Amaka Enemo: Use my real name.


Eva: Okay. Um, before we post anything online we will ask for you to review the interview transcript, and materials we have created to ensure that you would approve and are interested in making any edits that you would deem appropriate. Is this alright with you? And do you have any questions?


Amaka Enemo: No, it’s fine with me. If you type my name, it’s already on google.


Eva: Okay.


Amaka Enemo: And everybody knows. So no need to.


Eva: Okay! Amazing. and please know that you can choose to not answer or talk about anything that you do not want to discuss, and you can choose to end the interview at any time.


Amaka Enemo: Alright.


Eva: Um, can we begin the interview? Is that alright with you?


Amaka Enemo: Please go ahead.


Eva: Okay.


Heidi: So just to begin. Where are you originally from? And where do you live now?


Amaka Enemo: I am from Nigeria, and I am in Nigeria.


Heidi: And um, yeah.


Zoe: Um, okay. before we move on to the next section, we would like to ask you to describe a typical day in your life. What does it look like? What do you do in the morning? The afternoon evenings, or spare time?


Amaka Enemo: Okay, you mean now or every day of my life?


Zoe: Every day.


Amaka Enemo: Okay, every day. So I woke up mostly around 7 o’clock and do my [unintelligible], and around 8 I got ready to go to work, I resume by 9 o’clock. I close by 5pm. And most times I might like to go to the bar and take a bottle of beer or 2 or 3, as the case may be, and some days I stay at home. And but currently mostly I go to work, come back, maybe 2 or 3 times in a week I might decide to unwind. Then you see me in the club, or in the garden, or [unintelligible] anywhere.


Samantha: Solid. Um, okay. So to start to get into the like work questions. Um, generally, how would you describe your work history?


Amaka Enemo: Mmmmm, you mean my work now as an advocate?


Samantha: Yeah, or if you’re comfortable sharing anything before that.


Amaka Enemo: Okay, as you all know, my name is Amaka, and I work for Nigerian Sex Workers Association, um, as the National Coordinator, which means that I coordinate all the sex worker organizations in Nigeria. And currently we have, like 40 organizations across all the States. And you know that Nigerian have 36 States, which means in, in some States they have, like 2 organizations that work for sex workers. So what I do every day is to provide services to sex workers, especially those that are HIV positive, and we also [unintelligible], the human right aspect of the set work. So whenever sex workers are arrested, we provide lawyers that can bail them if it is serious, if it’s not too serious. We fucking bribe the police and they released them. That’s basically what I do every day. So I have an office that that is also a safe space for sex workers where they can come at any time and feel free. And I mean, if there’s anything that’s bothering them, they discuss about that. Then can I also let you know that I, I don’t, I don’t sell sex anymore, because I am married. And, I, I don’t know so my typical day is just go to walk, do your stuff, come back, enjoy yourself, that’s it. But, I’ve stopped selling sex.


Samantha: Gotcha. Thank you.


Hazel: Our next question is, how did you become a sex worker advocate? And what was the journey like?

Amaka Enemo: Okay, so this, the journey started in 2012. So before then there is nothing like, um, a sex worker coming out to tell people that you know this is what I am, and this is what I do, though. So I was going to, I was still going to university. And I have neighbor that, like my bunk mate, you know what bunk is?


Samantha: Mhm.


Amaka Enemo: You know, bunk?


Samantha: Yes.


Amaka Enemo: you know the double bed. That one person stays down and the other person up. I don’t know.


Samantha: Yeah, a bunkbed.


Amaka Enemo: Yeah, but my bunkmate was owing me some money that time, and I’ve been, I’ve been trying to get the money from her, but she is not working, and me, I am not from a very wealthy family. I am from a family that is hustling. Then I was doing my diploma. And she told me, you see your money. Don’t worry. Come, let’s go to Lagos. When we get to Lagos I will give you your money. I will make money for yourself. Wow! I said, no problem. So we went to Lagos. Lo and behold, she took me to a brothel. In the night I will follow her because she asked me, Oh, let’s go and drink, and all that kind of stuff, so I’ll follow her to [unintelligible], and I will not see her again. The second time she will leave me. I’m gonna have to ask Babe have fun now. She now say, if any man said, come, just follow the man. Don’t be shy, you know that kind of stuff. That was how I joined. So what I do. I don’t play with my school, though, but what I do is a during holiday. I have to sneak out to Lagos because I was not in Lagos. I have to, because the the first time I was scared. But later, when I see the money that is coming, I was not scared again. I said, Man, this is a good business, so I will not have a problem from paying my school fees. I will not have a problem from paying my accommodation. I also not have a problem from enjoying my beer. I like beer very well. I like beer very well, so it will not be difficult for me to get all those things, so I always expect the school to close, so that I will use like a month to go to Lagos and and and gather all my money. So what change my life and make me to want to because, then, like there was nothing like a sex worker organization in Nigeria. Because nobody wants to come out and say, Yes, this is who I am, and, and all that. So one, one guy that stayed close to the brothel I used to stay started like he, he, he, only he noticed that I don’t stay all the time. I only come, um,  I only come for some time, then disappear, reappear again, so he was like, What’s up with you? And meanwhile, in Nigeria, we are tired of explaining our condition to our patronizers, because when they want to take you, they’ll be asking you. Oh, oh, God! I tell stories with [unintelligible]. Without knowing that there are norms if they [unintelligible]. Oh, God! This was why I would tell my story, this was why I would tell my story. One person tell me, stop telling your story, just do what you came to do and move forward. So I get to understand. If you ask me about life, are you here for this story or for business, you know. So from there I understand that aspect of the Nigerian men. They are just, they just want to do everything that will make you be very open, so that they will have sex with you. Go, you know that kind of thing, please.


If you’re not getting me kindly call me back. I’ll be willing to explain. Okay.


Samantha: okay, that means that. Thank you.


Amaka Enemo: Okay, okay. So from there. So the guy called me. He said, “Oh, they are they are doing something for sex workers. Would you want to participate?’ I think he worked for the government, so I said, why not? If they will pay me, you know. If they pay me for my time, I won’t mind. So we went for the program. When we got there, they asked me who I was. I said, my name is Amaka, and I’m a sex worker. Everybody was shocked that I was a sex worker.  But why would I lie, man? This is what I’m doing. You should get used to it, you know. So after that, they started inviting me for meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings because you never see the sex workers at the table. They always have people that represent them, you understand? So they started calling me, and in 2013, you know about ICASA, Right? It’s the International Aids Conference in Africa. It will be happening next month in Zimbabwe. I will also be there. So in 2013, there was ICASA in South Africa,  and the government decided to sponsor me to go there. That was the turning point. I went there. I saw so many Sex Workers from South Africa, from Kenya, and they were very open. There is a place they call the sex workers zone. So once you come to the conference, that zone is for sex workers. You get to see how they were very open, danced, and made noise. I got to go and meet one of them and ask, why are you so comfortable telling people letting people know that you’re a sex worker? I liked the mingling, and most of them were wearing T-shirts with the inscription; this is what a sex worker looks like. If you do that in Nigeria, they will clap and follow you. I started asking them, how were you able to do this? They started telling me stories, and I developed an interest in how they were organized because they were willing to tell me everything they do. They told me about how they feel free, and I was like, how will I make this happen in Nigeria? How can people come out and say, this is me. When I came back. I have a few friends and I told them, “This is what I saw in South Africa. Do you think it is something we can do here?” They said, No, my parents will judge me, and I don’t want my family to know so I told them no, follow me, I will be the face. Don’t worry. I’ll be the face. Another angle that contributed to this was in 2014 because I got the contact of the Sex Workers Alliance. So there is something that call academy. Have you heard about that? Sex Workers Academy. Do you know about that?


Samantha: No, no.


Akama Enemo: Okay so this is the Sex Work organization in Africa. So they got some funding. And that funding goes towards training Sex workers in the area to take charge of their work.

In 2014 they requested that I come and bring six sex workers from Nigeria. That was a turning point for all of us, because its hard for people to want to place their faces on what they do. They were the people now shouting. After that we went back, we started looking for sex workers in all those states and telling them “This is what is happening in other countries. Do you think we can do this?”  And, we got to where we are today! So I don’t know. So now, in Nigeria, we have people coming out because they’ve seen me, and nothing has happened to me, and nobody has criticized me, even if you criticize me it’s your business, it’s not putting food on my table. So I actually do not care. And they see how others are coming out and saying this is what we do. That’s it. Or is that something I’m missing that you wants to know?


Eva: For our next question, we’re wondering what types of sex workers do you work with? And how would you describe the types of work they do and the context?


Amaka Enemo: So we work with male sex workers, trans sex workers, female sex workers, and sex workers who use drugs. However, we are silent about Lgbtq sex workers because of, because of the law in Nigeria about same sex relationships. So we are keeping it low. But if you check our network/social media handle. We don’t want to get them in trouble because of the government and the law.


Eva: Right. What type of location does this usually happen in for sex work? Like? Is it a sex hostel. What type of location?


Amaka Enemo: Hmm. Okay. So let me use myself as an example. When I started, I wasn’t in a brothel. Anybody who wants to have sex can come to the brothel, look around, see anybody that he likes, and go with the person. Here is my husband by the way and my husband!


Everyone: Hello, Hi


Amaka Enemo: so yeah. But if you just want, and I have to show you my husband. But yeah, so they have people that stand on the road. They have people that stay in the brothel, and they also have people that stay on the streets. So, like me. I started in the brothel, then from the brothel, I went to the street, and from the street, I finally went to the hotel. The hotel was my exit period. So we work with different types of sex workers, male, female, trans, LGBT, but like, I said, we are low because of the law that criminalizes that.


Eva: right. Do workers usually work for themselves or for other people?


Amaka Enemo: So as much as we do hear stories of people that they are some madam. Bring from the villages. They bring them to, maybe Lagos, maybe Abuja, maybe Port Harcourt any of the cities. They will put them in a room. and each time they have a service, they will collect money from them and give them some percentage. They will take like the experience I’ve had. With some they would. They will carry the sex worker. They would tell the sex worker, I’m going to like I’m going to let you go, but you must have raised so, so, so amount for me. So the poor girl now maybe probably he doesn’t have anything to key into. When the lady collects the the amount they agree she will not let them move.


Eva: of the amount that sex workers earn, how much do they get to keep?


Amaka Enemo: So, That I might not be able to say generally. Because it depends on the people. You know we have aged, aged, sexual and the ones that are old. So those ones they take as little as, I don’t know how to collaborate them less than $0.50 they take for all nights. Yeah, we have the ones [unintelligible] you know, very, very beautiful, like young Middle Aged, you know those ones. Most of them collect $10, $15 for a night, and there is something they call a short time. Short time is when a man just pick you and release, you understand? Right? The guy will just have sex with you once he come, once he come, that’s all. That is short time, so they break. He can carry to his house of our hotel, depending on what both of you agree. So it depends, like, I said. Some people most times are lucky to get who give them like a hundred dollars. Some girl lucky 50, some get lucky if 50 just different. It depends on the person you meet, so is is kind of agreement, because Amaka Enemo: some might be kind. Some might be brutal, strictly, or what you agree, some will just carry you then, after they will even add something on top of what you agree. So it depends.


Eva: Are sex workers working full-time. Generally?


Amaka Enemo: Huh?


Eva: Are sex workers working full time?


Amaka Enemo: of course. Yes, and and and they pray for customers 24 h. People that you know, you know, and most of them that stand in the street. They come from home, they come from their house. So those type of people do not want, probably people around them to know that this is what they do. So at night they will come to a hotspot. Have you been to Amsterdam? Because in Amsterdam you understand that there is a place they call red light districts. So all the sex workers go there. So anybody that wants to see a sex work has go there. But here it is different. You can just be in the [unintelligible], and yet you’re looking for a man. You can stand on the streets. You’re looking for a man. Nobody except maybe police police want to show theirselves. They will come, you know that kind of thing. So we don’t have a specific place. That they stand, sex workers is in all the corners of this town ain’t as much as they are selling beer. They are around those places looking for people that need them. you know. And some of them are also online. Basically, most of them are online. Those ones they actually do not call themselves sex workers But they’re just as well.


Zoe: Do sex workers try to leave sex work and think about doing other work. And if yes, are there reasons they try to leave?


Amaka Enemo: Okay, So basically in Nigeria, basically in Nigeria, other African countries, you know, you see, most of them married, and and the and the understanding they have is sex work is work, which is very okay, and through some of them would tell you. Selling onions is good. Selling peppers is good. Selling tomatoes is good, but sex work pays better. But in this part of the country that I am. Anybody that is doing sex work is hoping to gather to to get money so that they will have other things, alternative means  of livelihood. So will, I say, unfortunately, have not met. I says, while I tell you that even if I have money I was will be coming to these streets. The language is that? Oh, I’m just here to get money to do this once I get it, I’m off. I’m just the idea that that’s just it. However, we have seen some that got married and along the line. Probably the husband is broke. He doesn’t have money to support. They will go back to the streets. I don’t know if I’m making sense.


Samantha: You are. Yes, I got it. Yes.


Amaka Enemo: So when they go to the streets they will still look for money. Some of them will go back, some of them I must have finished with the husband, so they are back to the streets. So most times you have to see people that have given birth to like [unintelligible] going back to the streets just because the children cannot feed, and that’s the only way they will make money to feed their children. So in the aspect of Nigerians, telling you that this is my work. Even if I get money. Even if I do this, I’ll still be is difficult.


Samantha: Good to know.


Zoe: Do you know people that have left the industry and then returned back to it?


Amaka Enemo: So many, so many of them. In fact, as someone someone was talking to me yesterday, and she said, I really do not know if sex work is caused because I made a whole lot of money. I invested the money and you went off. So she’s back in the district again. We have several of them. The habits. For example, we had. You have a good life, you get whatever you want at your own speed. If if you need money, you will not take time like sleep with 1, 2, 3, 4 men may you solve your problem, but when when well, you invested your money, probably in opening a shop or doing other businesses. Once the money go down, boy, there is no alternative. You need to come out to the streets. I’ve seen probably many, many of them. You know. It happens very well here.


Samantha: Gotcha. Could you describe what the typical client might look like?


Amaka Enemo: What?


Samantha: What would like the average client look like who would come to a sex worker for services?


Amaka Enemo: So everybody does. They don’t have any. If a barrel pusher, you know what a barrel pusher is.


Samantha: No, no, no.


Amaka Enemo: you know, wheel barrow like, okay. Some people that push barrel, you know. They make very little money once they gather the money like they gather the money they know where people that they can carry are. They will go because you don’t have a specific age. What you have is money that we are taking. We don’t want to know if your spirit, we don’t want to know if you’re dead in as much as you show us money. That is it so we do not have a special person. The special person we should be looking at is the month, the pocket. So once you have the bucket, if you like the the mad person. We do not care here.


Samantha: fair enough. What would the average like relationship look like with a client like, are there generally do you see? Would you see them more than once, or our clients generally one time.


Amaka Enemo: Okay, no, it depends so like, like. For example, if you have a client that took you home, and he like you, he can take your number then, any time. Next time is it of him to come and look for? Says, okay. Can call you. However, we have some. Some of them that cannot go for a lady or a woman’s wife. So they are only hit around what they just hit. They go, which is very okay, for for because you might not want to be talking? Oh, when when is the word created? Where will he end? When is like we don’t like that kind of story, the kind of story that goes. Take your money open finish. That’s the kind of story we like hearing.


Samantha: Got you. Would you be able to describe what a sexual experience with a client might look like?


Amaka Enemo: Okay, so there is nothing special. It depends on how much you pay. We don’t. If you, if you pay well, if you want me to do some assault for you, and with some assault, if you not pay well, I will just turn. What do you want? You want for cabbie. Okay, no. I put microphones. Let me go. Some are also friendly, some are also in a like everything. So I like manual anything happening outside money. No. we don’t like it. So even if it’s somebody that is angry, are you, top? You add something on top of the money. You don’t win, the person will use her mind and stew some people. For example. He paid. He paid you just to fuck you, and at the end they will say, Oh, we want romance, no romance is different. How much you go pay for romance? Do you understand? We we are here to fuck, we call it fuck. We are here to fuck. So if he, if he wants  more than fuck and you want romance like how you’re fucking, stranger, you fuck and move on. So if you want extra things you need to add, and if you are, do we see smiles on our face? But if you know we are not in, you know.


Samantha: Right? Makes sense. Would you say generally that the sex workers are treated well by clients? Or is that relationship kind of not so good?


Amaka Enemo: my dear. It depends on the chance you enter. There is something that we call one chance on chance, now a very bad thing, if you enter on chance, he thinks he’s involved is either they have sex with you and throw you off. I have had that experience. You have access to somebody, and when you are on a high speed you push the person out of the car so that you will not get paid, that number 2, some home. And for a norm the normal day break is 2 times you have sex 2 times, but if you want to increase, you also discuss with the person, probably add something, or just make the person, but it’s not your right. So in that situation. When the lady refuses. The lady will be beating like beating, beating. And there are some people. Maybe one person will come to your side and pick you in the middle of the night. You will see that there are 3 or 4, and there is not. You can do that, and just respect yourself. Open your pussy, give Condor one after the other. So that we have peace, because if you don’t, the will beat the hell out of you. You may not know where you are, and you will still go and still fuck the fog. So we also have some kind ones like we have kind one. They don’t want issue, even if you want to create issue. Oh, fine. Take. Oh, yeah, bye, bye, go. We have peaceful people. But basically they experience a lot of humiliation. Some of them will have like. I’ve also had an experience that I went to the guy’s house, and at the end of the day he refused to pay me my money, and I was like, I’m going to shout. I was shot in this place. My sister, before I plan to shout the guy is shouting outside already. So we have so many, so many. so then you will. I will. I stay mad at people or people that are more crazy that even you are still planning to shock, and the person is shouting outside already. So in that situation, what do you do coming about those your bag, and go and count that as one chance. You know. So it happens like that here.


Hazel: Okay, the next question is, what does your organization focus on? And what are the key areas of work that your organization is involved in?


Amaka Enemo: So basically, we focus on advocacy. We focus on human rights. we focus on skill acquisition because we do empower people, we will finish an empowerment program sponsored by Uri and Dp. In the spotlight initiative, and they were able to train a few sex workers and give them like some cutlery for food, different types of food. Some make up saloon, then some some you, you know. So they thought, some also how to do it. So that’s basically where we focus advocacy, human rights, health, and empowerment.


Hazel: Okay. And what are the best and most satisfying parts of your job?


Amaka Enemo: Oh, Jesus Christ! The first time I was arrested by the police! Oh, God! I won’t forget that day.


Samantha: is that good?


Amaka Enemo: So that was like my worst nightmare. The police arrested about 61 sex workers that night. That police station is still irritating me. We entered that police station. There is no threat that we did not receive. The call. The media people there have video. You cannot close off it cause they will slap. We are going to the courts, we begged. We beg some we are begging with. I don’t know. How am I going to do? I cried, though my eyeball won’t come, because I was thinking that once I get to the court, straight to the prison. We start there to video us. The media have played with us, and they will access her. I said, please like they want you to talk. Then when we got to the court, more media houses come. So the deal breaker is this. When we got into the got into the cause. George was a woman, and here we believe that women are wicked to women. So we are. Don’t they now call the police? That brought all of us, they said. What was their offense? The police say loitering so the job just say that if you said guilty, the punishment they give is for us to pay 1,000 Naira, like $1. And this is the people we are begging police for 50, they just say, is, either we pay $1 or we do community service for one month. You know, community service sweeping the streets. All that for one month. My sister, everybody disappeared. Everybody pays 1K. This stops here. You know that. That’s experience, it’s living in my brain rent-free. It does not want to leave every time the experience was terrible. Oh, Jesus, let me not talk!


Hazel:  What are the challenges or issues that worry you the most about your job?


Amaka Enemo: Police, law enforcement agency people that stayed in the brothel. There is something they call police money, that is, police money, but what they call is police money. So every month they pay certain amount to the brothel owner, so that once police come they will not arrest you for there but any month they mistakenly do not pay that money. All of them are going to step, and if you want to pay one person. Make sure you have like $10. Like 10,000 naira $10 before you come out, and they keep repeating it every every month every month, you know.



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Hazel: Okay, and what do you want people to know about becoming a sex worker advocate?


Amaka Enemo: Okay so like, I said, the advocate helps for so many things, because I have to understand everything about sex work. What the law said about says about sex work in fact, one instance. We got a grant from well, this front-line aid, you know. We got an like I wrote that you need to understand what the laws say about, sex work, well, I think we still have the book. Probably, if you need it, I can look for the link and share with you. So we, we hired some lawyers. We had some lawyers to actually review what the law say about sex work in Nigeria, and we got the review. That changed me; that lifted me because I have to understand that all these things that these men are doing is not like the police are doing is not accepted. This is not what the law says, but because we do not know anything, we will not know anything about the law, once they come, will feel that ‘Oh, we’ve committed the highest offense.’ Do you understand? Police are the highest nightmare, police, right? They are the highest nightmare of every sex worker. In some cases we see when they arrest you they will use, you know nylon leather, they will use as condom. To fuck you. You understand? You cannot say no. If their boss likes you, he will pick you up from the cell. Go and have sex with you without pay. You know how painful it is for a sex worker to have sex without pay? It is very, very- that’s the worst thing. How? So they keep doing it. They will promise you that. “Oh, we’re gonna protect you. Just don’t worry. Blah blah blah.” boy does work. If you pass this one in the front, you will see another way. Police are the highest issue for sex workers. But the the good thing is that people are being empowered. Many people are empowered like I am. I cannot see where you are resting sense. Okay, I recorded yourself a police, and I will let you go. No, you will carry me so people, I mean, sex workers has capacity has been built around. Oh, this is your right if you do like this, but it does not stop you from being arrested where you go against the law of the nature. For example, if you still are sex worker you will be punished. I don’t have any issue about that. But if you’re arrested just because you are a sex worker and stand on the road. We will come for you.


Samantha: So our next question is, what are the laws like in Nigeria about sex work. And what are your perceptions of these laws?


Amaka Enemo: Okay, so this is what the laws say about sex work. The laws say that sex work is not criminalized unless you are caught negotiating aggressively. That is, causing nuisance. Then, again, the people that benefit from the proceeds of sex work are criminalized. You know my problem with this law? If you are criminalizing the people that benefit from that then you are not helping us. You know why I say that? Because if you are criminalized because you came to meet a sex worker, you will not be able to come tomorrow or come again because you wouldn’t want to face the same thing again. Come to think of it, If people that benefit from the proceeds of sex work are criminalized, then the hotels keep us. The madams that gives birth also should be criminalized. I don’t know if you’re getting this.


Samantha: We got it, we understand. Okay.


Amaka Enemo: of course, like I said before, because the police are targeting sex workers. I mean the law enforcement agencies because they are targeting sex workers. In fact, let me share this experience I had one day. I was in a place it is just a ghetto.. So you know what ghetto is? I went for something there, and I saw police like group of policemen, like hitting the door versus was there matching it. I was like, “what’s happening?” The police they do not want to listen to me. The only thing they did, they used their legs to hit the door and the door opened. I now stop them. They were carrying on. I told them, “Number one is that you are a man, you are not supposed to arrest women. Number two is that you have no right to break into people’s house to arrest them. Number three is that you’re not getting any money now.” And they say, “Who are you?” And I said, “Don’t ask. I don’t know who I am. But no, you cannot arrest these people because they did not do anything wrong.” Then they say, “Oh, if you don’t want us to arrest them, we are going to arrest you.” I say, “Let’s go. Leave the people, let’s go.” So while we go to the station, they do not even want me to enter. They were asking me, “Who are you?” I say, “me.” I am a sex worker, and this is what the law says. 1, 2, 3, 4. So they now have to sit me outside and they were asking me, “What? Are you sure? Call your lawyer and ask. And this is what the law say. So in this situation, you find out that they don’t even know what the law say. I have to be the one to choose what the law they are fighting behind says. So many things are happening, because in our program now, we’ve started inviting the law enforcement officers so that they will see the people they are dealing with, and also understand what the law says. Do you understand? And as much as some of them are yet to accept it. But, my dear, that is reality. They don’t have a choice. If you take me to court, you tell me why you’re taking me to the court. That’s it. I remember also the law said that when you are caught negotiating aggressively, my dear, who we want to see a customer and start shouting, Oh, yeah, it’s not possible which means it cannot happen so every other thing is what they made up on their own. But the truth is that the law enforcement agencies are our major problem.


Heidi: So, in addition to yourself, how these laws affected your family members, or your intimate partners, or your friends? Do you think your family members or anyone else in your life treated you differently because of your work as a sex worker advocate by anyone in your community?


Amaka Enemo: So, in Nigeria, we don’t tell our family, “This is what we do.” For example. Now, your mother might be in the village, “Are you selling sex in Abuja?” So what happens is that it’s up to you to tell your- I’m selling this. I’m selling, that I’m doing this. I’m doing that. But already my face is open. So my people know. But basically most of them don’t. That is why we see them standing on the street when A is pointing out of there. You see, some of them do, because they wouldn’t want the any of their relatives to know. And number 2 you will not know, except maybe, maybe somebody that knows you from the village sees you on the street. Then the person would take you to your village. “Oh, you know what this person is doing? This person is selling sex on the road,” you know, all those kinds of things, but it’s very, very difficult, probably one out of 1,000, that their family knows that this is what they are doing. Because the thing they are telling their family is different from what they are doing. They don’t tell their family that they sell sex but me, my face is open every way. If you want to, you can even put it on stickers, I don’t care.


Samantha: sticker


Heidi: And if there are any instances where you felt that you were treated differently because you were a sex worker? Would you be able to describe that experience?


Amaka Enemo: I think I had one experience again in the police station when I went to. I don’t know how to speak it in English, but send out all of you, which means is all of you that are doing it. Look at you, the police who started so because you came to. But that was then. Because now, with the experience and knowledge I’ve had around it, you can know, you even while you are, even when they love or you look at me. You know that I don’t have joy. I don’t have joy. You cannot. You cannot talk down on somebody, and expect the person to be nice with you. The only problem, like going to the police station, number one is that some people that are not coming would say, see her! She’s coming, that their members, you know that kind of a thing is, it is demonizing. And even since more, I still don’t like law enforcement agency. Even when I’m not in the street. I still do not like them. I don’t want to do anything with them because of what I see with this my 2 eyes. You understand? Do you not understand?


Samantha: Thank you. Okay, so before we end, what- would you be able to tell us what sex work means to you?


Samantha: What does sex work mean to you?


Amaka Enemo: Sex work simply means to me using what I have to get what I don’t have. I’m using my pussy to get money. That is sex work. However, in general, sex work is giving sex, in exchange for financial gain, security, everything. That sex is sold in exchange for that. Some people, there are some groups of people we call “area boys.” Those are people from like, I would say, nuisance in the community, some sex workers fuck them or have sex with them just for protection. So that is sex work. Using what you have, to get what you don’t have. It can be money, it can be security. It can be any god dang thing.


Samantha: Fair enough. Okay, and then, is there anything else that you would like to add, or think we should know?


Amaka Enemo: No.


All: Okay, thank you so much.


Amaka Enemo: Are you sure you don’t have any questions again? All of you are sure that I don’t need more gist? If you need more I can, I can gather the current ones, the practicing ones. If you wish to talk with them, I can bring them together. You still talk. If you have any questions, I’m always available for you guys to reach out to me through my email. You know, if you need more clarification, I’m in for that.


All: Okay, thank you. Thank you so much.


Samantha: Have a great rest of your day. Take care, have a good night.


Amaka Enemo: You too, bye, bye.



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Sex/Work by Ariella Rotramel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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