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When prostitution offers lifeline to school girls

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POVERTY, desperation, peer pressure or greed? What could possibly be the constituting factors responsible for the increasing rate of prostitution burrowing deep into the learning institutions in Nigeria?

Prostitution is said to be one of the oldest professions in the world. Despite penalties entrenched in the laws of most nations against this illicit trade, it still flourishes.

Whenever prostitution is raised, a layman will always think that those who engage in the trade are independent women, old enough to make decisions for themselves and willing to bear attendant repercussions.

But then, what happens, however, when prostitution becomes a pastime for young girls still dependent on their parents for subsistence? More specifically, what happens when the act of prostitution also involve teenagers in middle and higher institutions?

Essentially, these young girls, sent to schools to acquire knowledge and become productive citizens in the nation, have found a vocation in prostitution. By day, they masquerade as students, attending classes and going to the libraries like other students but by night, they shed their academic garbs and put on that of the oldest profession in the world.

I had always thought that secondary school teenagers do not indulge in prostitution until last week; I visited a Police station in Onitsha metropolis to see a friend that was detained there. While I was there, I saw five teenage girls (perhaps between 14 and 16 years of age) also detained in the station, but behind the counter.

Out of curiosity, I asked one of the officers on duty why they should detain such under-aged girls. Her response shocked me beyond words, “they were picked from a brothel down the street”. In my bewilderment, I asked, “these children?”

The officer said “children that sneak out of school premises at night to do ‘ashawo’ work, are those ones children?” But then, how can they sneak out from a school that probably has a fence, gate and some security personnel?

With the permission of the officer, I went further to interrogate the girls, who reluctantly told me that they settle the security personnel to allow them pass through the gate each night they want to go out. As mind boggling as this may sound, this is happening in secondary schools.

In Uzuakonobi Nwando’s opinion, “it is no longer news that prostitution is on the increase, but teenage prostitution is a new phenomenon that is causing worry in the society. Teenagers of secondary school age seem to be competing with older women in a bid to sell their bodies to men. The rate at which female students subscribe to the so-called oldest profession in the world makes one think sex work is the best route to success.”

“Also, prostitution is covering more grounds in Nigerian institutions across the country than you might think, growing like a well-funded industry. To think that young girls have become so shameless and brazen that at some hotels, they consciously advertise their faces on albums and risk being seen by people that know them, is puzzling.

It is indicative of how morally decayedt our society has become. I recall a cartoon I saw in a newspaper about two months ago. It was about a wealthy man who traveled to a city on business. From his hotel room, he requested for a damsel for instant gratification but had the shock of his life when the girl that was directed to him turned out to be his beloved daughter. The daughter he thought was dutifully attending to her academic chores in school was out and about, pleasuring men that were many times her age.

One wonders how often this type of incident occurs in real life. With the current modus operandi of these young prostitutes, it is conceivable that male patrons, perusing albums to select amorous companions, could periodically set their eyes on their relatives whom they know to be either in a boarding school or campus.

These prostitutes just maintain registration with pimps in nearby brothels. They are called upon for work when their services are needed, via cell phones”. This is not a far-fetched scenario but does it bother the young female teenagers and undergraduates that chase after money at all costs? Apparently, not.”

“From all indications, some of them do not even believe that they are doing something bad or out of the ordinary. Here is what one once said to me.

“If a girl has a boyfriend and they have sex regularly and he gives her money, do you call that prostitution? So, what makes ours different? Is it because it is with different men or because we have more guts? Every woman is an “ashawo” (prostitute) at one level or the other as long as she is not married”.

The above statement shows that some of these girls do not actually understand the full ramifications of what they are doing; hence their carefree attitude about giving out their pictures and going home with men they have never seen before.

The fact that this girl believes that every unmarried woman is an “ashawo” at one level or the other, is not only an insult to all the decent women we have in Nigeria but shows her depth of understanding, or lack thereof, of the issue”.

Again, Nwadiuto Israel, a public servant has this to say. “Sex has become so cheap and easy to get from teenagers and undergraduate females. While some readily sell their bodies to anyone willing to pay good cash, buy designer purses and shoes, sponsor luxury vacations, buy Brazilian and Peruvian hairs, latest smartphones, even something as ridiculous as paying for outrageously expensive drinks at nightclubs, others settle for as low as between N500 and N3000, depending on the customers’ bargaining ability.

Interestingly, while the older ones wait to be approached by men, the seemingly young prostitutes in their teens tend to be more adventurous, engaging in serious touting for clients. Who do we blame for this situation?

What is the government doing about this? O wait! What can they do? They actively patronise the trade as well, through agents, otherwise known as ‘pimps’. These pimps make a lot of money by organizing ‘call girls’ for these irresponsible men throwing caution to the wind and engaging in lewd activities with girls young enough to be their daughters, granddaughters”.

Reacting to this issue, Chukwuemelie Ikwumelu, an undergraduate, said, “More worrisome is the fact that these young prostitutes have embraced the use of illicit drugs in the course of practicing their trade.

Their increase in number defines the variety of their passion for use of hard drugs which range from codeine, Chinese capsules, Indian hemp, tramadol, among others. Indeed, it is right to say that Nigerian learning institutions have become platform for indecency and sexual activities. As a student, I have witnessed some of these things.

I have come across good girls from proper families obliging to this pitiful lifestyle regardless of having every basic need at their disposal; proper education, monthly allowance, food, shelter and clothing. Although, poverty is a contributing factor to this problem, but then, is the excuse of lack justifiable for engaging in this act?”

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