Abuja is Nigeria's political capital and it is formally known as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It's Minister, who is a Senator and in charge of all affairs in the FCT, recently announced a ban on prostitution. Speaking through the FCT's Secretary for Social Development, Mrs. Blessing Onuh, all prostitutes were given
"48 hours to vacate the city and quit the job. [Because] [t]hey constitute a nuisance in the city and the FCT administration will not tolerate them."Mrs. Onuh, who visited several locations known to be prostitution hangouts, went on to explain,
"We are also sending warnings to all those men patronising them to stop. Some of the girls are under-aged; it is child abuse. If we get you doing that we will get you arrested, lock you up and treat you like the prostitutes are treated." [sic]
Prostitution is reputed to be the oldest profession known to man (and woman). Although the focus is typically on the female participants, female heterosexual prostitutes cannot exist without their male 'johns' who pay them for their services. If Abuja truly wanted to rid itself of prostitution, its officials need only arrest those who patronize sex workers. Given that Onuh even specified the 'Emprest Hotel' as a main location for some Abuja call girls, there was little need to issue a 48 hour ultimatum and threat. At least the government opted to give these women fair warning.
The federal government should have especially arrested the gentleman who rationalized his use of prostitutes as a condition of the weather, saying,
“As you can see, it is rainy season now, it is not good for a man to just go home and sleep alone...”This anonymous 'John' went on to complain that this new measure would lead to an increase in sex prices. If there was anyone to be arrested for patronizing prostitutes, it would be this gem of an individual.
IMPORTATION OF PROSTITUTES
It has become commonplace for Abuja's rich and powerful to import prostitutes from overseas. These women are typically made available to other high-powered male guests in a fashion similar to the serving of hor d'oeuvres at a high society event. So common is the practice, that at least one former military dictator is rumored to have died in the arms of an imported Indian, but some say Egyptian, prostitute.
Given this reality, it would have served the FCT Minister well if he had also threatened to arrest his peers at the National Assembly and other powerful men for their dalliances with high paid, foreign based and domestic sex workers. Doing that would have lent more credibility to his cause and suggested that he, and by proxy, the federal government, is serious about dealing with prostitution.
TACKLING THE CAUSES OF PROSTITUTION
Most women would not opt to sell their bodies for money. It can only be demeaning work that most people would not opt to engage in. Factors contributing to prostitution are the lack of job opportunities, the lack of education, and other non-economic issues such as, but not limited to, low self esteem. In a country like Nigeria where a former minister confessed that educational institutions were churning out more prostitutes than career ready graduates, education is key to combating prostitution. Additionally, job opportunities are equally crucial particularly as Nigeria's unemployment rate is anywhere between 19.7%, according to the nations new Finance minister, Segun Aganga, or 28.57%, as stated in a local newspaper editorial in 2009. Better education and more job opportunities would not only diminish the need for young women to sell their bodies to the highest bidder, but would also lessen other national challenges such as social insecurity that stems from underemployed youths who turn to violence. Furthermore, addressing these issues would also help limit the forced export of young Nigerian girls to countries like Italy as sex slaves.
CHILDREN AS SEX WORKERS
And per the child/underage factor, it goes without saying that it is reprehensible to engage in sexual acts with children, be they male or female. However, there, is the basic necessity to strengthen national laws on children's rights and ensure that they meet certain basic requirements reflective of the 21st century. One of which is the obvious right to not be married while still a minor. In April 2010, Nigerian Senator, Ahmad Sani Yerima, divorced one wife to marry a 13 year old Egyptian child bride. Although many individuals and groups spoke out about the issue, Yerima's supporters have turned the matter into an anti-Islam issue which could be further from the truth. The fact that a foreign child could be imported into the country for a man 37 years her senior indicates that children's rights are practically nonexistent in Nigeria. That being the case, how can the FCT Minister's assertions, and thus the federal government's assertions, that he is interested in protecting children from prostitution be taken seriously?
Nigeria like any other country faces it's challenges. This issue of women and children being forced into or opting to engage in prostitution, is one of them. Like any other problem, finding a solution will not be easy. But, in this case focusing on the real issues - male patrons who see prostitution as something that depends on the weather, rich and powerful men (including the nation's leaders) who import prostitutes for entertainment, the failure to tackle the contributory factors and the lack of appropriate laws to protect children - is the best and obvious way to deal with the matter. Not otherwise. Nevertheless, one will simply have to sit back and see what progress is made in tackling prostitution in the nation's Federal Capital Territory. If even one woman is discouraged or protected from being forced to subjugate her mind and body as a result of the federal government's plans, it will be a success. But, that will be a success at the cost of being more efficient and helping even more women and frankly, an entire nation.
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