- A reporters night stroll through red light streets
INARGUABLY, the history of prostitution could be traced to the woman named Tamar. She was the first person mentioned as a prostitute in the Bible. She happened to help the Israeli spies who came to spy on Canaan land, the land flowing with milk and honey after their departure from the land of slavery, Egypt. The Holy Bible record shows that this particular woman changed her ways and had a genealogical root to the saviour, Jesus Christ.
Evidently, nothing (good or evil) is new to the earth. Recall that it was a prostitute that caused the fall of the great warrior leader, Samson. Today, history is replete with several falls or dethronements of men of high authority by single women who were supposed to give them sexual pleasure.
My interest in this piece sprung from my experience with some persons who had taken to the idea to exchange their body for money. You may mildly refer to them as sex hawkers, ashewo( a Yoruba slang for a prostitute). However, being an ambassador of feminism and inspired by respect for motherhood, I and my good team of intellectual friends formulated a special code name for them. Our mindset towards such creativity was based on the idea that no matter how bad a man is, there are chances that positive change will happen someday. We called them, road safety or road keeping.
If you wouldn’t mind, I would like to share with you my experiences with these set of humans as I get to interact with them on professional and social grounds. By the way, I had suggested the code name, Road Safety, to my clique of friends. Why? Because of the unusual manner these sex hawkers hung themselves alongside the major roads looking for potential customers was likened to the manner the officials of the Federal Road Safety Commissions (FRSC), would do in midday. That name was widely accepted amongst us. Firstly, because it was partially harsh and friendly. Secondly, it was given from a heart born out of love for humanity. I would not bore you with the details. Rather, I will go straight to the major reasons that led to this article.
In the first reason, I would focus on the individual point of view. Why did she take up the job. Exchange of money for sex. Permit me to go down memory lane to the history of prostitution. It could be traced to old time Romans. When the Roman Empire was the centre of the world politics, it became a custom for the king, better referred to as, the emperor, to find a way to celebrate his victories at war. The female slaves were used as objects for sexual satisfaction for the triumphant soldiers. Meanwhile, the emperor and his generals of the army had the best of the spoils of war. Step by step, people began to pay their debts by offering one another. A father offers his daughter in marriage to the king in exchange for land to farm. The same daughter grows and offers her own daughters to another prominent person in the sect for money and power. Part or a whole lot of everything we are experiencing at the moment were begotten from the decisions and lifestyles of the people of the old. Nothing is new on the earth!
Its history in the Nigeria is traceable to the period of slave trade. After the abolition of slave trade, some of the women whose husbands had been sold out to slavery were faced with loads of hardship to provide food and protection for their immediate families. Hence, the victim (struggling mother) resorted to having amorous relationships with more than one partner. It is no news that in some parts of Nigeria, especially in Western Nigeria, a woman could be married to two or more husbands. If you’d live in Lagos, then you would bear me a witness.
Shedding light to the original question: why are you doing this? Chit chat interviews with some ‘road safeties’ at the popular 40/40 roundabout in Owerri will address it. One Vivian (not real name) alleged that she is a 200 year level undergraduate from IMSU (Imo state University). She argued that she engaged in this sector of the economy to assist herself in school. I guess I know what you would be thinking at the moment. Kindly hold your breathe and constructive criticism at the moment. There is more on the way coming.
Another fellow, Jennifer(not real name) ,30, with parental roots from Bayelsa and Imo States said she had a huge hairdressing saloon store in Aba but for the government’s idea of reshaping the city to standards; hence demolition of inappropriate structures affected her negatively. This propelled her to migrate to the fun city (Owerri) to join in the business. According to her, she plans to exit the business as soon as she saves enough to help her get back to her original legally oriented business. The question is, is it possible to go back?
From the aforementioned original stories, you would agree with me that the major cause to this moral decadence is the financial challenge faced by the individual lady? Hold it. I could still guess what your’re thinking. If the problem is money, then go get a job. If your shop or business failed, then start afresh. Anything you say on this matter is correct. I share in your actions and reactions not until I met another fellow in my tour in the state capital of Awka. Relaxing in the midst of friends and associates at a mini fast food that serves noodles and other junkies at the popular Abakalliki Street (now Club Road), the scenario was no different from that of Owerri or Port Harcourt. You could recognise these beings via their dress code and gait. Introducing myself as a journalist and social scientist, I got talking to one of them who was so vocal (Recall that two of them had approached the cook for noodles). The story she shared was heart breaking and pathetic. Honestly, I was disillusioned.
Never condemn a man that says nothing. Yes everyone has got a chance to be heard. The world would be a better place if we learn to listen and empathise with one another. As the road safety shared her story, I had nothing to offer but my friendship and my ears. Chioma (not real name to avoid semblance) had been a normal growing girl in the town of Onitsha. She had lost her father at a tender age of three. This led her eldest sister to adopt her into her home. According to her, immediately she saw her first menstrual cycle at 13, her trials began. You could imagine otherwise but the tempting serpent was the sister’s husband, Uncle P( not real name).
This lingered till the next year. She tried to report to her sister her ordeal but her cries were met with unbelief. One day, while the sister made her regular business trips , the branch holding the fruit was maimed. At night, the brother in-law made his way through. This was at age 15.
Hurt and depressed, she ran out of the house to the streets where she made some friends who harboured her. There, she was initiated into the hussling game going with the acronym, ” the street is tight, make you hustle yourself out.”
It is not what happens to you that matters but what you do with what happens to you. Chioma is like many young ladies out there. As of the time of this chit chat, the young lady has grown with five years experience in the business sex for money.
There is so much to be done. As feminists, we must adopt new strategies to educate and train, as well as inform and develop a standard for morals in our society. This piece is not in any way supporting prostitution or other social vices. But next time you see someone in that field, kindly know that there is more than meets the eye. For some, it has become an avenue to generate unholy wealth but for few others, it was more of an emotional break-down; it was hard for them to forget some ugly experiences.
In the next edition, I would be explicit enough to take you to the other side of the coin shedding light on the marketing power of the road safeties perse.