Recently, the media was awash with the news that some ladies, suspected to be prostitutes, were arrested in Abuja by the police. Accusations have trailed the arrests with sections of the media alleging that some of the ladies were raped by the policemen who arrested them. Although these stories have been narrated by major newspapers in Nigeria, their lewd and grim reality will lacerate our moral canvas and violate our sense of decency.
Therefore, the stories will not be recounted here again. Following these incidents, some non-governmental organizations, joined by many women, have protested the treatment meted out to the suspected prostitutes. The protesters were seen carrying placards on the streets of Abuja with different inscriptions, berating the police and calling the attention of the government to the matter. However, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, operations, Mr. Usman Umar, has acknowledged various reports and protests assuring that investigation has already commenced to fish out theerring police officers involved in the cowardly act. He assured the protesters that such police officers will be made to face the law.
Once again, these incidents involving suspected prostitutes pull at the strings of our souls. They question our collective moral integrity and the double standards in our fractured attempt to purge our spaces of malignant sores. The Holy Bible, Christianity’s moral compass, that sacred book of universal acclaim, admonishes us to remove the speck in our eyes in order to see clearly to remove the log in our neighbour’s eyes. Indeed, how is it possible for the government of the day to unleash mayhem on ladies of the night without addressing the issues that threw them on the streets in the first place? How could the government use the police to fight defected sexual inclinations instead of sending them to the Abuja-Kaduna road to battle insecurity? Raising the bar further, is it possible for these prostitutes in all the cities across Nigeria to continue in their trade without patronage by lascivious male members of the society? Are these ladies less guilty than the men who patronize them?
Of a truth, our cities at night are decorated by ladies of different shapes and sizes, hiding under the cover of darkness but smart enough to be seen in their various degrees of lecherous indulgences. As I write this piece, the muse, the ever-present companion of a writer, immediately reminds me of George Bernard Shaw’s play, “Mrs. Warren’s Profession”. In the play, Mrs. Kitty Warren, a renowned prostitute is able to send her daughter, Vivie to the prestigious University of Cambridge with the proceeds from her licentious trade.
Even when she stopped selling her body to men for money, she graduated in the business by running a chain of brothels where young girls were employed as prostitutes. Yet, Mrs. Warren was a respected member of the society who, the playwright describes as “on the whole, a congenial and fairly presentable, old blackguard of a woman”.
From the above analysis, it is obvious that prostitution is an entrenched malaise in our society therefore, to employ such cosmetic approach like police raids to curb it is not only short-term but temporary. Some people have argued that the ladies we see on the streets are just a fragment of the chain of prostitution because the real ring leaders, those who benefit from the immoral activity are not seen, they are behind the scene and are highly placed in the society.
Although there are ladies on their own who engage in this trade, they all get their handsome patronage from respected members of the society and as a colleague has pointed out, there will be no prostitution without patronage. To get the idea of the kind of clientele that these prostitutes command, one only needs to drive past certain hotspots in Abuja, Lagos, Port-Harcourt and other major cities in Nigeria.
The kind of cars on duty at such places underscores the category of people who patronize these ladies of the night. Of course, no salary earner will drive an automobile worth several millions of naira, no salary earner will wear the popular agbada by the wee hours of the night while a hapless driver sleeps on the wheels, waiting for his oga.
There are some parents whose daughters are in higher institutions but these parents hardly send money to them or bother to know what they are doing. There are men in our society who will never do a favour to any lady without asking for a sexual gratification.
There are rich men who will never give a female bank marketer audience to open an account in her bank unless she engages in the very act of sex. There are employers of labour who will never give a lady a job without debasing her womanhood through a sexual act. There are pastors who will collect tithes from female members of their churches even if they know these ladies are not engaged in any meaningful trade. Prayers must be rendered on their behalf for more success. Indeed, our society is under trial in the court of sexual promiscuity, therefore it is difficult for us to exonerate ourselves from the immoral act of prostitution.
Any responsive government, honestly committed to eradicating prostitution in the land will, first of all, find out the root causes of prostitution. Certainly, there are many types of prostitution but the common one which is easily identified by all is the act of standing on the road at night.
If we restrict our understanding of prostitution to only this type, then the truth is not in us and we are far from self-purgation. If the government is serious about fighting prostitution and uprooting it from our social fabric, then it must go to the root of the matter. Why do some ladies embrace this profession? Is it because they are nymphomaniacs or because they are pushed into it by society?
Do ladies indulge in prostitution as a survival strategy, to keep body and soul together and also to take care of their families? Are there jobs in the land which encourage prostitution and in fact, the ladies will only have to get involved in the very act in order to keep such jobs? Is it possible for the industry of prostitution to survive if the male folk does not commit to it with gusto and much fanfare? To be sure, the act of prostitution is condemnable, it debases the mind both for the ladies and for those who patronize them. In fact, prostitution smacks of mental derangement, and depravity of the inner recess of the soul.
In many ways, our society is collectively complicit in promoting the industry of prostitution, therefore, confronting the menace will require a more deep-seated approach than asking police officers to raid young ladies and humiliate them. Let us all lend a voice in our individual and collective capacity to dislodge the edifice of prostitution or leave it to fester rather than employing underhand tactics to violate the female gender.
Dr. Adiele writes from Lagos via