Background: Female sex workers (FSWs) continue to harbor disproportionately the HIV burden in Nigeria. Yet knowledge about one of the major contributors to transmission of the virus among them – violence and abuse – and the actions they take when exposed to such is not adequately known.
Methods: A cross sectional study among 305 brothel based female sex workers in Abuja, Nigeria was conducted to assess their knowledge on violence against women and the actions they took whenever they were involved in such violence. FSWs were recruited into the study using a snowball approach. Univariate and Bivariate analysis was done using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS).
Results: Significant proportion (62% - 78%) of FSWs identified rape, verbal abuses, and taking women as sex objects as VAW actions. Fewer (< 50%) identified female circumcision as well as early marriage as forms of VAW. Over 50% of the FSWs interviewed have experienced some form of violence in the 6 months preceding the survey. They identified their clients (65%), co-sex workers (9%) and strangers (8%) as the main perpetrators of the violence. Sexual (44%) and Physical violence (39%) were most prominent violence experienced by the FSWs though other forms of violence (economic (16%) and psychological (15%)) were also recorded. Clients’ refusing to use condoms (55%) was the most common form of sexual violence recorded by the FSWs. Most (68%) FSWs did nothing whenever they encountered a violent action.
Conclusions: Violence is a major problem among FSWs in Nigeria and the high proportion of men refusing to use condoms during sexual intercourse violates the rights of the sex workers and may also be a propagator of HIV among them. FSWs were likely to do nothing whenever they encountered violence at their work and would rather report to their brothel proprietor than report to the police.