Prostitution in Africa

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The legal status of prostitution in Africa varies widely. It is frequently common in practice, partially driven by the widespread poverty in many sub-Saharan African countries,[1] and is one of the drivers for the prevalence of AIDS in Africa.[2] (36.9% in sub-Saharan Africa)[3] Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire permit the operations of brothels. In other countries, prostitution may be legal, but brothels are not allowed to operate. In some countries where prostitution is illegal, the law is rarely enforced.

Transactional sexual relationships are particularly common in sub-Saharan Africa, where they often involve relationships between older men and younger women or girls. In many cases, the woman in a transactional sexual relationship may remain faithful to her boyfriend, while he may have multiple sexual partners. In both of these cases, transactional sex presents an increased risk of HIV infection. As a result, transactional sex is a factor involved in the spread of AIDS in Africa.

This page uses the UN system of subregions.


Country/Territory Prostitution Legal Age for solicitation Brothels Pimping Notes
 Angola Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal Prostitution remains a major problem. Female and Child prostitutes are often trafficked into China and vice versa.
 Botswana Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Burkina Faso Legal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Burundi Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Cameroon Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal Child prostitution remains a major problem, however the government is working hard combating it.
 Cape Verde Uncertain Uncertain Uncertain Uncertain
 Central African Republic Illegal Illegal Illegal Illegal
 Ceuta Uncertain, but prostitution itself isn't considered a crime Uncertain Illegal Illegal
 Democratic Republic of Congo Illegal, but tolerated Not allowed, but tolerated, age is uncertain Illegal, but tolerated Illegal, but tolerated
 Djibouti Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Egypt Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal

Males are considered a witness and is exempt of punishment for testifying against the prostitute. The penalty for prostitutes is 3–36 months in prison and/or a fine. Any minor involved in prostitution is sent to a sort of corrective centre, where conditions are often as bad if not worse than they are in adult prisons

 Eritrea Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Ethiopia Legal Uncertain Illegal Illegal Profiting from prostitution isn't allowed by law.
 Gambia Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Ghana Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Guinea-Bissau Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Ivory Coast Legal 18 Illegal Illegal
 Kenya Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal Child Prostitution is a major problem, especially along the coast.
 Liberia Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal Although Illegal, due to widespead poverty and corruption, prostitution remains a problem
 Libya Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Madagascar Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Malawi Illegal, rarely enforced Not allowed, rarely enforced, age uncertain Illegal, rarely enforced Illegal, rarely enforced
 Mali Legal age uncertain Illegal Illegal
 Morocco Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Mozambique Legal age uncertain Illegal Illegal
 Namibia Legal age uncertain Illegal Illegal
 Niger Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Nigeria Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal The Nigerian government is looking into legalizing prostitution
 Rwanda Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Senegal Legal 21 Illegal Illegal
 Seychelles Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal The police often look the other way at prostitutes.
 Sierra Leone Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal Although illegal, prostitution remains a major problem, especially child prostitution.
 Somalia Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 South Africa Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 South Sudan Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Swaziland Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Tanzania Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal Tanzanian law forbids prostitution
 Togo Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal Although illegal, child sex tourism has remained a major problem.
 Tunisia Illegal, but tolerated Not allowed, but tolerated, age is uncertain Illegal, but tolerated Illegal
 Uganda Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Western Sahara Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
 Zambia Legal Uncertain Illegal Illegal
 Zimbabwe Illegal Not allowed Illegal Illegal
Country/Territory Prostitution Legal Age for solicitation Brothels Pimping Notes

Northern Africa[edit]


Prostitution in Egypt is illegal.[4] Police department officially combats prostitution but, like almost all other countries, prostitution exists in Egypt. The prostitutes in Egypt are Egyptian, Russian, and of many other nationalities.[5][6][7][8]


Prostitution in Libya is illegal.[9] Many of the sex workers are from neighboring countries desperate to flee the poverty of their countries.[9]


Prostitution has been illegal in Morocco since the 1970s. [10]

Many children are vulnerable as adoption laws in Morocco are very rigid and difficult. Morocco's increasing reputation for attracting foreign pedophiles made it sign various international treaties to deal with the problem.[11][12][13][14] [15][16] Male prostitution exists but is stigmatised.[17] Health services for Moroccan sex workers include OPALS.[14][18][19][20]

Traditionally, women's roles in North African society have been rigidly defined, particularly so with increasing Islamification. Yet the economic and social realities often provide few alternatives to many Moroccan women, and the area has increasingly been seen as permissive to prostitution.[21]


Prostitution in Tunisia is illegal, but, as in many other countries, the laws that ban prostitution are ignored and there are many brothels, tolerated and regulated by the authorities.[22]

Western Africa[edit]

Burkina Faso[edit]

Prostitution in Burkina Faso is not specifically prohibited by the law, but soliciting and pimping are illegal.[23]

Cape Verde[edit]

Cape Verde legislation does not penalise prostitution, and a number of sex workers operate covertly and overtly on the Cape Verdian island of Sal. Sex tourism is a major occurrence in Cape Verde.[24]

Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)[edit]

In Côte d'Ivoire, prostitution itself (exchanging sex for money) is legal, but associated activities, such as soliciting, pandering or running brothels, are illegal.[25] The civil war has left many women in need for wages, so some have resorted to prostitution, as there is high unemployment.[26]

The Gambia[edit]

Prostitution in the Gambia is illegal and a highly social taboo.[27][28][29][30]


Prostitution in Ghana is illegal[31][32][33](p42)[34] and there is a growing problem of sex tourism.[35][36][37][38][39] Some prostitutes in Ghana are campaigning for the sex trade to be legalized.[40][41] Prostitutes in Ghana are called Ashawo.[42] Unemployment is a reason teenage workers engage in sex work.[40][43][44][45]

Defining prostitution in the African context can be difficult, when compared to the situation in Europe, with there being a continuum from marriage to prostitution. If prostitution is defined as "women who sell sex on a regular basis to a number of different clients and without any emotional or long-term basis to the relationships", then such women can be identified in urban Ghanaian settings, but, in between lies a spectrum of sexual relationships that may, for instance, involve longer term relationships, children, and domestic settings.[46]

Ghana has become a favoured destnation for padeophiles to seek child prostiutes due to low law enforcement.[47][48][49][50][45][51][52][53] Prostitution is a criminal act in Ghana.[54][55] A high percentage of sex workers are vulnerable to HIV.[56]

Ghana has established itsef as a destination for sex tourism from western tourists. This kind of tourism has attracted paedophiles due to the country's lax child protection laws and poor law enforcement.[47][39][57] Child prostitution is increasing is a problem with girls being vunrable and boys to a lesser extent.[48][58][59][45][49][60]

Accra is a major hub of prostitution,[61][62][33](p35) women soliciting are clearly visible in the public places of the capital, and many Ghanaians are surprised to hear that any prohibition exists. As in other countries, police practice is highly variable and the law simply renders sex workers vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, and to exploitation by clients, and by staff of the hotels and other establishments they use.[63] The sex industry is believed to be growing in response to current economic pressures.[64] The agricultural and informal sectors which traditionally provided female employment are being squeezed by the Structural Adjustment Programme, and the industry is perceived as having low entry qualifications and high returns. Increased competition is driving down prices and standards in both Seater and Roamer sectors but it is still possible to match the minimum wage without taking very many clients. A quarter of workers in Ghana receive the minimum wage or less and women's incomes tend to be at the lower end of the scale.[65]

Vietnamese prostitutes have been found in Ghana[66] in the coastal cities of Tema and Takoradi.[67] Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas discovered that the Vietnamese women had been trafficked into Ghana for the purposes of prostitution.[68] The Vietnamese prostitutes had been recruited by a Vietnamese woman named Hanh in July 2013.[69] The price paid by their clients in Ghana was US$100 per hour.[70][71] The prostitutes worked from a brothel in the Jang Mi Guest House in Takoradi.[72] The women's ages ranged from 25 to 35.[73]


Prostitution in Guinea-Bissau is a major serious problem with many of pimps also being drug dealers.[74] Because of the poor economic situation many women are tempted by such offers of vice and become addicted to cocaine.[75]


Prostitution is illegal in Liberia[76] Like its neighbor, Sierra Leone, child prostitution has seen an increase in the aftermath of a civil war.[77]


Mali has problem with teenage prostitution and sex tourism.[78]


Prostitution in Niger is illegal.[79]


Nigeria has become a major exporter of women for prostitution.[9][80][81][82][83] Deputy president of Senate Ike Ekweremadu has proposed a bill to legalise prostitution.[84]


Prostitution in Senegal is legal and regulated. Prostitutes must be at least 21 years of age, register with the police, carry a valid sanitary card, and test negative for sexually transmitted infections.[85] It has been legal since 1969 to sell sex as long as prostitute has registered, over 21 years old, has a regular medical check-up, and can present an up-to-date medical report card to the police upon request according to Under Senegal's Penal Code (articles 318 to 327 bis).[86][87][88] The average age for a sex worker in Senegal is 28 years old and female.[89] Senegal has the distinction of being the only country in Africa to not only legalise prostitution but regulate it.[90][91] The only condition that it is done discreetly. Prostitution was first legalised in 1966.[92]

There are reports of human trafficking in Senegal, with the entry of foreign prostitutes into the country being professionally organized. Illegal foreign prostitutes are subject to arrest, as are pimps and underage prostitutes. Underage prostitution typically makes use of adult pimps. The maximum sentence for procuring a minor for prostitution is five years' imprisonment and a fine of 4 million CFA francs (approximately US$7,600), but the law is not generally enforced effectively. There are reports of police and security forces extorting money in return for overlooking infringements of prostitution regulations.[85][93] Senegal is becoming a popular destination for female sex tourism.[91] Senegal has gained a reputation as a Sex tourism destination since the 1970s but since the early 2000s it has also gained a reputation for female sex tourism.[94][91][95][96][93]

Sierra Leone[edit]

Since the end of the ten-year civil war in Sierra Leone, there has been an increase in child prostitution, especially among children who are struggling to survive.[97] This has happened in spite of the fact that prostitution is illegal in the country.[98]


Prostitution in Togo is illegal and punishable for up to 5 to 10 years.[99] In recent years Togo has become a magnet for western sex tourists who are interested in child prostitution.[100]

Middle Africa[edit]


Prostitution in Angola is illegal and prevalent since the end of the civil war in 2001.[101] Human trafficking from China is major problem which the Angolan government working with Chinese Police.[102]


Prostitution in Cameroon is illegal, but it attracts sex tourism from the West, especially for child prostitution.[103] The Cameroonian government has attempted to stop this trade by agreeing to multilateral agreements such as charters against sex tourism, like signing up with the Universal Federation of Travels Agents Associations (UFTAA).[104]

Central African Republic[edit]

Prostitution is illegal but is run by foreign pimps.[105][106]

Democratic Republic of the Congo[edit]

Prostitution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is illegal but the government do little to enforce the law.[107] Many Congolese prostitutes are from abroad or homeless children who have been accused of witchcraft.[108][109]

Eastern Africa[edit]


Prostitution in Burundi is illegal.[110]


Prostitution in Djibouti is illegal.[111]


Prostitution in Eritrea is illegal,[112] but, according to the 2009 Human Rights Reports it is a serious problem, and security forces occasionally follow women engaged in prostitution and arrest those who had spent the night with a foreigner.[112]


Prostitution in Ethiopia is legal, but procuring (operating brothels, benefiting from prostitution, etc.) is illegal according to Article 634 of the Ethiopian Penal Code, as revised May 2005.[113] Many feel it has contributed to the increased incidence of AIDS.[114] Ethiopia has become a magnet for sex tourism.[115][116][117][118][119]


Prostitution in Kenya is illegal.


Prostitution in Madagascar is illegal and people caught paying for sex can face a sentence of up to 10 years.[120][121][122]


Prostitution in Malawi is illegal but is widespread and laws prohibiting are rarely enforced.[123] [124][125][126]


Prostitution in Mozambique first became a major issue for the country in the mid-1990s when UN peacekeepers were accused of soliciting child prostitutes.[127][128]


Prostitution is illegal in Rwanda.[129] However, due to the immense poverty in the country, many women have been forced into prostitution to make money.[129]


Prostitution in Seychelles is illegal but remains prevalent. Police generally do not apprehend prostitutes unless their actions involved other crimes.[130]


Prostitution in Somalia is illegal.[131] Although forced marriages exist in areas under insurgent control,[132] there is generally little voluntary prostitution and pre-marital sex in the country according to the African Medical Research and Education Foundation (AMREF).[133]

South Sudan[edit]

South Sudan has a problem of imported prostitution from nearby African countries.[134][135][136][137][138][139][140]


Prostitution in Tanzania is illegal under Tanzanian law, but it is still widespread.[141]


Prostitution in Uganda is illegal in Uganda, but prostitutes operate freely in Kampala city centre.[142][143]


Prostitution in Zambia is illegal, but Zambia has a huge problem relating to child prostitution.[citation needed] There is a mistaken belief that having intercourse with a virgin will cure AIDS.[144]


Prostitution in Zimbabwe is illegal but since the increase of famine in the country prostitution has thrived.

Southern Africa[edit]


Prostitution is illegal in Botswana, but is nevertheless common. Legalization is currently being discussed as a means of lowering HIV infection rates, which are among the highest in the world. Both the head of the National AIDS Council, Festus Mogae, and the main opposition leader are in favor of the initiative, while the Catholic Church is opposed.[145]


Prostitution in Namibia is illegal but a common practice.

South Africa[edit]

Prostitution in South Africa has been illegal since the 1957 Sexual Offences Act (SOA), and the purchase of sex was added as an offence in a 2007 amendment. However, it remains common.

Rhino horn is illegally trafficked as trophies by Vietnamese prostitutes and Thai prostitutes in South Africa.[146] Thai prostitutes were involved in the scheme by Chumlong Lemtongthai.[147] Poles, Czechs, Thai prostitutes, and Vietnamese all participated in the rhino horn smuggling scheme which are then exported into Vietnam, where per gram, gold and rhino horn are the same in value.[148] Hunting permits were acquired by the prostitutes.[149]


Prostitution in Swaziland is illegal, and police continue to enforce the law,[150] although they sometimes turn a blind eye to prostitution in clubs.[151]

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