Prostitution in Somalia

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Prostitution in Somalia is officially illegal.[1][2] There is generally very little voluntary prostitution in the country according to the African Medical Research and Education Foundation (AMREF).[3] UNAIDS estimated there were 10,957 sex workers in Somalia in 2016.[4]

Sex trafficking[5] and child prostitution[6] are problems in the country.


Prostitution laws in Somalia are contained in the Penal Code of 1960, which was based on the Italian Penal Code of 1930.[7] The relevant articles are:[7]

  • Article 405 Prostitution
  • Article 406 Incitement to Lewd Acts (prohibits solicitation)
  • Article 407 Instigation, Aiding and Exploiting of Prostitution
  • Article 408 Compulsion to Prostitution

The laws are currently under review.[8]


HIV/AIDS prevalence rates are quite low in the country, estimated at 0.7% of adults.[9] This has been attributed to Somalia's dominant Muslim tradition and adherence to Islamic morals, which generally discourage premarital and extramarital sexual activity.[10] Sex workers are a high risk group[11] and their estimated HIV prevalence rate was 5.2% in 2014.[12] Condom use amongst sex workers is low.[11][13]

Sex trafficking[edit]

Somalia is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Information regarding trafficking in Somalia remains extremely difficult to obtain or verify. Victims are primarily from Somalia's southern and central regions and subjected to trafficking within the country, especially in Puntland and Somaliland in the north. In Somaliland, women act as recruiters and intermediaries who transport victims to Puntland, Djibouti, and Ethiopia for the purposes of sex trafficking. Due to poverty and an inability to provide care for all family members, some Somalis willingly surrender custody of their children to people with whom they share familial ties and clan linkages; some of these children may become victims of sex trafficking. In 2014, an international NGO released a report documenting cases of sexual abuse and exploitation, including trafficking, of Somali women and girls by Ugandan and Burundian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) personnel. An African Union investigation into the allegations concluded there was evidence of sexual exploitation, abuse, and trafficking by AMISOM personnel.[5]

Regional governments from Somaliland and Puntland reported smuggling and trafficking continued through Somalia as a transit point on routes to Libya, Sudan, and Europe. Women and girl migrants working in the informal economy were particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Certain marginalised ethnic minorities, Somali Bantus and Midgaan, continue to face greater risk of sex trafficking, as do IDPs and people living in areas under al-Shabaab control. Self-identified administrators of some IDP camps reportedly force girls and women to provide sex acts in exchange for food and services; some Somali officials are alleged to be complicit in such exploitation.[5]

Traffickers transport Somali women, sometimes via Djibouti, to the Middle East, where they frequently endure domestic forced prostitution. Some members of the Somali diaspora use false offers of marriage to lure unsuspecting victims, many of whom include relatives, to Europe or the United States, where they force them into prostitution. Trucks transporting goods from Kenya to Somalia sometimes return to Kenya with young girls and women; traffickers procure these young girls and women and exploit them in brothels in Nairobi or Mombasa or send them to destinations outside Kenya.[5]

The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Somalia as a 'Special Case' country.[5]


  1. ^ "The Legal Status of Prostitution by Country". ChartsBin. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  2. ^ {{cite web|title=Somalia - State Security Services|url= of Congress|access-date=21
  3. ^ "Africa Trip - AMREF". Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  4. ^ "Sex workers: Population size estimate - Number, 2016". UNAIDS. Archived from the original on 4 June 2019. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Somalia 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2018.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ Anne, Hanley (9 September 1996). "Somali children sold in Europe 'for prostitution'". The Independent. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Somalia - Penal Code" (PDF). International Labour Organization. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  8. ^ "Sexual Offences Bill - Legal Action Worldwide". Legal Action Worldwide. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  9. ^ "UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2010" (PDF). Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  10. ^ "Religious and cultural traits in HIV/AIDS epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 April 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  11. ^ a b "Somalia: High risk sex workers fly under the HIV radar". 31 March 2009. Archived from the original on 6 April 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  12. ^ "HIV prevalence amongst sex workers". UNAIDS. 2016. Archived from the original on 22 July 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  13. ^ "Condom use among sex workers - Percent, 2016". UNAIDS. Archived from the original on 22 July 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2018.