Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Prostitution and National Development

It is regarded as the oldest profession in the world; prostitution whose practitioners go by the name such as harlots, whore, women of easy virtue, commercial sex workers, prostitute, ashewo, etc is a global phenomenon.  It is an act of being paid for sexual intercourse and is considered an illegal act in many countries except for few such as in some countries in Europe where it has been legalized. Wikipedia says “Estimates place the annual revenue generated from the global prostitution industry to be over $100 billion”. Prostitution takes place majorly at brothels, hotels or residences of the patron.  There is a misconception that it is only the female gender that engages in prostitution, that is not true. There are men who are prostitutes. They are called gigolos. A man who finds customers for a prostitute in return for a portion of the prostitute’s earnings or in exchange for sexual pleasure is called pimp. 

In Nigeria, prostitutes are often found hanging or loafing outside hotel premises or areas popularly called red light districts. They are usually skimpily dressed with their mammary gland and their legs largely uncovered.  They have to dress seductively and provocatively in order to attract customers.  It will however be misleading to think that all prostitutes are to be found on the streets. There are the corporate ones who make use of services of pimps and hotel receptionists in marketing themselves. They give these go-betweens their nude pictures to show to potential clients. Among those who adopt this methods are girls in tertiary institutions as well as those in other paid employments. 

There are those who ply their trade locally i.e. within the country while others are international players. Those who are in the latter group are those who engage in sex tourism. They are those who willingly migrate abroad to engage in the trade and those who are trafficked by some baronesses and barons to engage in sexual slavery. A state notorious for women trafficking for purpose of prostitution is alleged to be Edo State. A sizeable of prostitutes of Edo State origin are said to be found in Italy and other parts of Europe. Quite a number of the victims of this illicit trade alleged that they were tricked or induced into the trade. They are made to swear to a blood oath at a shrine and threatened with instant death should they attempt to break the oath.

A new wave of prostitution, to my own mind, is those who resort to being used as baby making factories. The Nigerian media is awash with news of teenage girls who engage in sales of ‘fruits of the womb’. They are impregnated by young boys and deliver their pregnancies in some maternity centres or orphanages whose owners pay them for the babies and thereafter sell off the children to barren women or those who would use them for rituals. 

There are many causes of prostitution. The most identifiable ones are poverty, greed and physiological disorder. Yes, poverty plays a pivotal role in luring hitherto innocent girls into “selling their bodies”.  Some of the prostitutes have owned up that they resorted to engaging in the trade in order to keep body and soul together. They lament that coming from a poor background, they lack the basic needs and prostitution affords them the opportunity of using what they have to get what they need. Some of them even boast that they have used the proceed of this trade to train their children and wards, build houses, buy cars and meet their immediate and extended family needs.

For those who are in it because of greed they are not poor but believe that the trade offers them access to good things of life which a normal salary job may not easily afford them. Many in this category are students in tertiary institutions and those working class ladies who are not contented with what they have.    They are those referred in local parlance as ‘aristo babes’ who hunt after rich men and boys who could lavish them with money and gifts. Those with physiological disorders are in two categories. Those by virtue of having been sexually molested as a child resorted to living by prostituting as an adult and those who are naturally sexually insatiable known as nymphomaniacs. Nymphomaniacs are not into prostitution because of poverty or greed but because they just cannot do without sex. It is a compulsion and obsession for them to mate with a man. It is noteworthy that gays and lesbians could also be prostitutes even though they engage in same-sex.

What impact do prostitutes have on national development? The effect is both positive and negative. On the positive side, prostitutes are traders who provide sexual services. They are meeting needs of men with huge sexual appetite or those in need of sexual satisfaction. These people, I mean harlots also earn income from such services and as such are able to meet their own financial needs. In some countries where prostitution is legalised, they also pay tax. Invariably, commercial sex workers contribute to the economy by providing self employment and earning income from services provided.

On the flip side however, this group of people contribute immeasurably to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and premature deaths. Among the diseases spread by whores are herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS.  Given the number of deaths recorded annually as a result of these diseases, particularly among the working class, it is a monumental loss. Prostitutes also contribute to increase in incidences of rape and moral decadence. With the coming of internet, pornography has been liberalised as their sites abound on the internet.  They are also available in print and compact discs. Unfettered access to these x-rated materials has given rise to incidences of rape.

Government at all levels has been trying their level best to stamp out prostitution by ordering police to raid hotels and brothels. In the Federal Capital Territory, particularly Abuja municipality, the Abuja Environmental Protection Board has been combing all the red-light districts to effect arrest of suspected prostitutes. This has generated a lot of hues and cries as many commentators have spoken about indiscriminate arrest of women whose only crime may be a loose dress sense. I however appreciate what some state governments and NGOs are doing in terms of rehabilitating arrested prostitutes by training them in life skills. National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other matters (NAPTIP), Idia Reconnaissance, a pet project of Mrs. Eki Igbinedion, wife of former governor of Edo State and even FCT administration have been doing a lot to rehabilitate prostitutes and trafficked women. These are commendable actions. More effort however has to be put into creating enabling environment for people to earn a decent living rather than being forced into prostitution only to attempt to reform them thereafter. A lot of enlightenment campaigns, I mean civic education, has to be undertaken by government and non-governmental agencies to educate citizenry about the evils of prostitution and its negative impact on national development.