Saturday, 26 January 2013

"We are tired of living with sex workers" – Neighbours of Ibadan brothels

An illustration
Although they have lived side by side for many years, residents of some neighbourhoods in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital appear to be getting tired of the brothels in their areas.
In fact, a recent pronouncement by the state government that it intends to rid residential areas of brothels has fuelled the silent feud.
A woman who lives at Ekotedo and identified herself Mama Joy captures the mood of the neighbours of these brothels.
“Government’s decision is the mind of God. How do you explain a lady taking to prostitution as a means of livelihood?
“It is just too bad and as well very ungodly. To advise them is not easy since they have become hardened. They didn’t just start the trade today. When you call them to counsel them, they will insult you and ask you if you will shoulder their responsibilities.

“They will tell you the country is hard. They will tell you men are not ready to marry them. They will tell you they have no job. Some of them will even tell you that the job is lucrative. How do you help someone like that?”
She said that their presence in the community had become an eyesore and a bad influence.
She said, “Unfortunately, they see prostitution as a way of life. They enjoy it and they corrupt the minds of other young people who see them and copy their lifestyle. In this environment, you have to monitor your children very closely; especially the girls.
“You know they say that evil company corrupts good manners. These ladies who are into prostitution always sit outside or go about almost naked. The young kids see them and are fascinated.
“They watch the male clients of these prostitutes come in and go out every time. They see people smoking and drinking to stupor all the time. They see people fighting over sex partners every time and witness other obscene sights everyday. It has become a way of life and it is not good.”
According to the state government, the clampdown on brothels operating in residential areas is necessary to curb their influence on young persons. The state Commissioner for the Environment and Habitat, Lowo Obisesan, had told the News Agency of Nigeira on January 4, 2013 that the action was to discourage the state government was set to shut brothels in residential areas around the state.
This was followed by an ultimatum expected to lapse by the end of January.
“Operating brothels in residential areas shows irresponsibility on the part of the owners, who do not care about the impact on children, who are exposed to such acts of indecency.
“Reports from the affected communities have reached us because parents abhor the acts of immodesty shown to their children as the result of the existence of such brothels,” Obisesan told NAN.
But one of the sex workers who introduced herself as Tina said news of the impending clampdown and the support of the residents for the move had set them on edge.
Tina, who gave her age as 16 and some of her colleagues expressed fears that their eviction would deny them of their only source of livelihood.
The young lady, who told our correspondent that she got into prostitution a year ago as a result of the death of her parents, said she got to Ibadan a year ago from her native Delta State.
“I have to do this job in spite of the high risk involved in order to keep body and soul together. I have been at this brothel ever since my arrival in this city.
“This brothel has been here for many years. Why do they want to send us away now? What have we done to them?
“I pay N500 as rent at the brothel everyday. My room is just big enough to contain my small bed and a few other personal effects like bags, clothes, makeup and  cooking utensils.
“I use the money I make from this work to pay my rent, feed, buy clothes and take care of other daily needs. I also engage in daily savings.
“If we are sent away now, where do we go?” she asked.
Another sex worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said their lodgings were old and poorly maintained.
She added, “Usually, the rooms are poorly ventilated but our customers manage to use the place anyway since it is for short time. But we don’t know why government is asking us to leave the place since they are not the owners of these buildings and they are not going to take over the houses.”
 A commercial bus driver who gave his alias as Baba Ishan said that the proximity of drinking joints to brothels was a “wise business decision.”
He said, “Some people will like to step down with fun (sex) after they are through with drinking.”

The sight is exciting to school pupils who dance to the sound of the music wafting from the brothels. Occasionally, some of them run errands for the ladies; most times they quickly run to get cigarettes for customers, a resident said.
A Primary 5 pupil, Ade, who reluctantly spoke with our correspondent, said, “I don’t know whether I like them to be moved away or not. I like them because they are friendly but my mother always prevents me from running errands for them.”
Another pupil, who gave her name as Rita simply said, “I don’t like prostitutes” and then ran away.
Rita is a pupil of a school located almost 500 metres away from one of the brothels. Close to other brothels are some private schools.
A house wife, Tonia, said, “I hate to live here. Others live here too. I don’t like what they do but I try to train my child very well.”
Another woman, Mama Bukola, said she had been living close to one of the brothels for a long time.
 “I don’t like what they do but there is nothing I can do about it. I am not a prostitute and my daughters are not into prostitution. When you pray and bring up your children properly they will not go into prostitution.”
When contacted, the spokesman for the state police command, Mr. Ayodele Lanade, said, “I cannot comment yet on government’s decision to close down brothels in residential areas because I have not been around in the state for some time now.
“However, the state government has not formally informed us about the decision to evict sex workers from residential areas. We cannot act until we are carried along. But, I can assure you that the command will not fail in its duties.”

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