Prostitution – A Menace In The Nigerian Polity (Part 1)

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The rate at which our youths travel abroad these days is alarming. This trend is more pronounced among girls between the ages of 17 and 24 years. One starts to wonder what actually is attracting them across the border.  Is it in search of white-collar jobs or just to study abroad due to our messed-up educational system? But none of the above could be the reason why these our young girls want to travel abroad.

A closer look into this issue opens ones eyes to a sad reality! Why are our young girls travelling abroad at an early age? What are these girls looking for in UAE, Malaysia, etc etc. They are being recruited into prostitution in the ‘red-light districts’ of the big cities in these countries by their handlers whom they call “madam” or “boss”. But the disturbing part of this is that these girls are actually recruited willingly, and some with the knowledge of their parents. This is 21st century phenomenon unlike what it used to be in the 20th century, when girls were trafficked abroad with the promise of working in restaurants and hospitality industries but were actually taken into prostitution. Today’s Nigerian prostitutes trafficked abroad are fully aware of what they are going up there to do.

But why is it no more a secret? Why are these “madams” letting these girls know before they are trafficked? The truth is not far-fetched. These girls are already in the game in Nigeria. You can see them in almost every metropolis and happening cities in Nigeria. Nowadays, you cannot differentiate between a student and a prostitute because they also pose as students in school environments. They call themselves “runs girls” and in social media they always have their motto as “small girl with big God”.

What is prostitution and why is it becoming the cankerworm eating deep into the fabric of our nation? According to Wikipedia, prostitution is the practice or occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment. Prostitution in Nigeria can be dated back to the pre-independence era when the good economic condition of Lagos attracted Nigerians from the rural hinterlands as a result of the seaport and being the capital city. In the 1930s, prostitutes were called “ashewo” as they were linked with the notorious Jaguda and Boma boys.  There were cases of forced prostitution and other vices, which led the government of the day to create the Unlicensed Guide (Prohibition) Ordinance and the Venereal Disease Ordinance in 1941 to curb it.

However, in the 20th century brothels started springing up in cities and street prostitution became popular in places like Ikeja in Lagos, Benin City in Edo, etc etc. The 1980s was prevalent with the exportation of prostitution to Italy and other European countries by Nigerian girls of mostly Edo origin. Some of the strategies used by the traffickers were coercion, deceit and promise of huge income from working abroad.

Prostitution in Nigeria in this 21st century has taken a new form. Unlike in the pre-independence and 20th century era, coercion is no more one of the popular strategies used by traffickers. Nowadays, they discuss with their victims and to some extent, with the victim’s parents before their journey. This is why it is frightening and would deal a great blow on any measure to curb it. The worst part of it is that these girls are already “masters” in the art of prostitution here in Nigeria before moving abroad. They call themselves “runs girls”. You can find them mostly in Asian countries such as UAE, Malaysia where they can easily enter with tourist and student visas.

Further probe into this issue led to interviews with most of these girls by our correspondent in Malaysia. For the sake of understanding, some of the interviews are reproduced here below with the interviews first names only represented for privacy:

Asirigbakaute: “Are you aware of your coming to Malaysia and what you are coming here to do?

Gloria: “Yes naw…my madam is a friend of my auntie. She called my auntie and discussed everything with her”

Asirigbakaute: “What exactly did they discuss?”

Gloria: “The discussion be say make I come here come do runs naw…say I go make am for Malaysia pass Naija”

Asirigbakaute: “Was there any agreement between you and your so-called boss?”

Gloria: “My boss brother carry me go one babalawo house for Ijebu Ode. There, the baba collect hair from my private part and one of my panties come say make I swear say I no go carry my boss money run”

Here is another excerpt from a victim known as Ella:

Asirigbakaute: “How did you end up here in Malaysia, were you aware of what you were coming to do?”

Ella: “Yes of course, my madam is my friend from Nigeria. Na all of us been dey hustle together for Lagos before she come first me travel. She tell me say guys dey pay well here pass Naija. So I come tell am say make she find way for me naa”

In one of the interviews, one of the girls said her real age was 17 before she travelled to Malaysia but her age had to be adjusted to 21 during the passport processing period, as she would be considered a minor to travel alone with her real age. In all the interviews, one thing was prevalent, these girls were aware that they were travelling to prostitute. Most of their parents or guardian were aware too. The question here is why is it so? Why is it no more like they were deceived by the promise of working in factories, restaurants or hospitality establishments? They know they are travelling to sell their bodies for money.

To be continued…

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