I. O. ORUBULOYE
Across Nigeria, attitudes towards female sexuality vary among ethnic and religious groups. Some ethnic and religious groups are punitive in their pursuit of even discreet female sexual transgressions, while male sexual transgressions have always been taken for granted. In certain parts of Nigeria, women have some degree of freedom and a substantial degree of equality with men, while in some parts, especially in the north, where the majority are Muslims, the society suppresses and closets its women. Similarly, premarital chastity has traditionally been rigidly enforced among some ethnic and religious groups, while in others the society has traditionally been flexible. These differences lead to variations in sexual patterns and they are likely to cause differences in the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and AIDS.
The nature and structure of the traditional family system are also important determinants of patterns of sexual relations within and outside marriage. Polygyny on the scale still found in Nigeria has been sustained only by the very substantial delay of male first marriage. It has inevitably produced a situation where half of adult males are single and sexually active. On the other hand, polygyny has taught men to believe that relations with only one woman are not part of man's nature, while postpartum abstinence makes women unavailable for sex for a considerable part of their reproductive life span. During the long period of postpartum abstinence men look for partners elsewhere. A significant proportion of their sex needs is met by commercial sex workers, divorced women, and widows.
The current economic difficulties arising from the collapse of high export prices for petroleum and the structural adjustment programme adopted to meet the difficulties created by the end of the oil boom have had an impact on sexual practices. The prosperous oil boom years began after the Nigerian civil war in 1970 and finally collapsed with the 1987 floating of the Naira (the Nigerian currency unit worth US$1 before the float and less than five US cents at the time of the research reported here).
The commercial sex workers' study is part of the on-going research on sexual networking, STDs, and HIV/AIDS transmission at the Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria, and is supported by a grant from the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries (SAREC).