The following is a nice read:
“This sex work o, I never see your kind o, this sex work o, blessed are the sex workers.’’
The bold lady leading the song above danced gaily with her colleagues
under the Falomo Bridge, Ikoyi, Lagos. At first, the spontaneous song
from her brightly coated lips sounded awkward, but soon gained momentum
with the spice of a live band. On Thursday, March 3, the mood was
relaxed and the weather was right when sex workers in Nigeria celebrated
the International Sex Workers Rights Day with fanfare.
Sex Workers Day? Yes. Sex workers, popularly called prostitutes or asewo,
in 125 countries including seven African countries like Kenya,
Botswana, Uganda, South Africa have picked March 3 of every year as a
day to advocate for the legalisation of sex work. And if you think this
is laughable, the sex workers are of the opinion that Nigeria, which is
signatory to the International Declaration on Human Rights and other
protocols is bound to respect the rights of the sex workers and
decriminalise the trade.
So to the streets, they trooped, dancing and signing about their
rights. The ladies, old and young, ‘packaged’ themselves in T-shirts
and fez caps with inscriptions stating the rights of sex workers. The
ladies sure meant business. For the first time, sex workers in Nigeria
publicly teamed up with their international counterparts under the name,
Africa Sex Workers Alliance, ASWA.
According to Margaret Onah, ASWA coordinator, the day is very
important to stop “the human rights violations against sex workers and
to build in its place an enabling human rights environment in which sex
workers enjoy the full scale of their rights. This include being
afforded equal protection of the law and opportunity to practice sex
work without fear of prejudice in their communities,’’ she said.
Initially, the programme schedule was for a rally to terminate with a
press briefing at the United Nations Information Centre, UNIC, on
Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. But after a sweat-soaking walk around
Ikoyi, authorities at UNIC refused to have anything with the group.
Undaunted, the sex workers, accompanied by officials of some
non-governmental organisations, headed for the expansive culvert beneath
the Falomo bridge, ready to roll the tape.
In the full glare of the public, the sex workers danced to their own
lewd songs unmindful of side glances and curious stares thrown at them.
After the appetiser, Ijeoma Chinakwe, a project officer with BAOBAB
for Women’s Rights, a non-governmental organisation based in Lagos,
charged the ladies to “be proud of what you are doing. Do not let
anybody trample on your rights. Everybody passed through something before they became what they are today,” she told the approving crowd.
Eva Inakwa, an official from the Skylife Youth Development
Initiative, is of the opinion that sex workers’ rights are human rights
and so they should not be stigmatised based on their profession. She
said, “We are human beings and we are women. We have rights just like
every other man. Being a woman does not make us inferior or being sex
workers does not make you animals,’’ she said.
Speaking with the magazine, a middle-aged sex worker who prefers to
be known as Pat, agrees with Inakwa. She is worried that many people
see sex workers as animals; she is optimistic that the situation would
change. “We have a right to go to the market. We have a right to enter
an office and if somebody asks you what you are doing, tell them that
you are a sex worker and the person will see that you are proud of what
you are doing.’’ An indigene of Rivers State, Pat does not see anything
wrong with her trade. “You that wake up in the morning, bath, wear
your suit, go to the office, have the same rights that I have because
you work for money and sex workers work for money also. We are freedom
fighters, that is why we are here fighting for our rights,’’ she said.
Onah is of the opinion that government should embrace and
rehabilitate sex workers because stigma fuels HIV spread. “It is very
important to accept them as human beings. Most of these sex workers are
HIV negative and we have young housewives infected with HIV. Do not
forget that most of the HIV data we have now is from antenatal clinics.
This shows us that they were infected by their husbands. We have to
embrace these people because they sleep with men who also have wives and
girlfriends and this is very risky,’’ she said.
The first International Sex Workers Rights Day was held in 2001, when
sex workers from southern, western and eastern Africa came together to
spearhead the fight for sex workers rights in Africa. That year, more
than 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival organised by
the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya committee, a forum of 65,000 sex workers,
based in West Bengal, India. Mahila Samanwaya, which is derived from an
Indian language, means unstoppable. Their main objective is to fight for
recognition of sex work as ‘work’ and sex workers as ‘workers’.
In Nigeria, we don’t like telling ourselves the truth, but I would rather these prostitutes come out, organize themselves and legitimize their trade (healthwise) – if possible, rather than living in the dark and spreading deadly diseases in the process of operating in the dark.
In fact, let them launch a website, have a customer-care line, have an emergency number, etc. Let them employ security guards, offer training to as many polluted interested minds as are out there. This opinion of mine is because I grew up in an environment where there was an awareness of such lifestyles. Though not promoted, it was tolerated, legitimized and regularized. Necessary checks and balances were put in place, so you can’t just wake up one day and decide to become a prostitute. You had to go register. You would do blood tests, health checks, etc. The awareness was there that prostitution is wrong, but prostitutes had an ID-card and took an HIV-test every 6-months. In fact, a customer demands for an ID card and could call a hotline to verify if it was real/fake before any get-together commenced. No, I never patronized them. I received my awareness infos through seminars I attended in school, the TV, newspapers, other media etc.
No pun intended. But I wonder: if the Nigerian government, if the Lagos state government (in this setting) cannot regularize the basic necessities of life, I wonder if they can regularize prostitutes and their trade.
The following are some related articles on this blog, observing prostitution in Lagos state:
- why we charge NGN8,000 for sex – Lagos state Prostitutes
- Ojuelegba’s kings and queens
- a letter I once wrote to the Bar girls at Eko Hotels and Suites
- Nigerian University students and organized prostitution rings
I waited until I confirmed if the report I received was true that a neighbor of mine was a prostitute – this was 3-years ago. This lady was always at home(a 3BR flat), her ACs were always on(NEPA or no NEPA), she had a big Gen-Set, she had no husband, she drove the latest Audi, had no visible source of income work (after months of my observation); but anytime our paths crossed, her perfume was extra-strong, she was always in some spaghetti outfits.
The parking space was the bone of contention. Almost everyday, I would notice a car whose plate number I wasn’t familiar with parked at my space. Info from the mallams was always that the owner was in her house. No, it was always impossible to get the owner to come out, move out so I could move in and park, then he could come behind me. I became an undercover agent. These car-owners always left the house at 12-midnight or in the early hours of the morning.
The day of my confirmation: NEPA brought light so within about 20-minutes, I and the other neighbors had come out to switch off our Gens. I guess, the heat of lust and passion was so hot in this madam’s house, she didn’t know NEPA brought light, and even if she knew, whoever was pounding her didnt give her the 2-mins to dash outside and turn off her generator. I went to the back of the house and caught some action going on through the partly opened curtain. I caught sight of a man sitting on a chair watching the action(madam and another man) going on on the bed, and puffing on a cigarette stick. I felt like vomiting, I didn’t know her own case had gone that far.
Below (middle comment) is one of the comment left by visit on the above quoted article. Thats where I got the title for this post.
“95% of Nigerian University girls are either partial prostitutes, executive prostitutes or glorified prostitutes” – which of the below is true regarding the above:
- the statement is totally false
- the statement is totally true,
- the statement is true, but…
your comments and opinions on any of the above are welcome.