Stop Underage Prostitution
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Given the fact that posterity anywhere in the world is largely dependent upon the quality of the children and youths nurtured by the society, no level of authority can afford to watch its generation of young girls being abused and wasted. It is worse if they are minors. This is even as the future role of the girl-child as a mother and first teacher in the life of every individual is central to the overall moral development of the country’s population.
Following a recent report, the Nigerian military raided underage brothels in Maiduguri, Borno State. The brothels, which are located at Kasuwar Fara in Shagari low-cost area, were swooped upon after an exclusive report by the Daily Trust on Saturday which exposed how juvenile sex trade thrives in those areas of Maiduguri metropolis. Yet, it’s an irony that while the military raided the brothels to thwart juvenile prostitution, residents have accused them of being part of the crowd that keeps the brothels booming and streets ‘lively’ for the most part of the night.
The report revealed how every evening, young girl, mostly teenagers, engage in sex trade with their male clients who are mostly uniformed men. The story further revealed how several poor households in Maiduguri push their underage girls into sex for money as a means of survival.
The report said the juvenile sex workers were among those displaced due to disruptions caused in the state by the Boko Haram insurgency; adding that poverty, hunger and family pressures forced many of them into prostitution. Indeed, one of the juvenile prostitutes said she was exposed to sex-for-food in one of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. The 15-year-old girl explained that she escaped from Boko Haram insurgents who raided her home town, Bama, and killed her father.
The same juvenile sex worker accused IDP camp officials and security operatives of introducing them to sex-for-food. She recalled sleeping with soldiers and camp officials in exchange for food and little money. When the camp officials refused to accept her, an elderly woman advised her to use what she had to bribe them. She thereafter left the camp to look for shelter elsewhere, and eventually relocated to the Barka-da-Zuwa area, where she engaged in prostitution. When the Barka-da-Zuwa slump was demolished by government, she again relocated to Kasuwar Fara from where the military recently dislodged them.
Details of the investigative report show that killings by Boko Haram rendered thousands of women widows and their children vulnerable to criminal exploitations. This, more than any social factor, is responsible for this humanitarian crisis. Others found themselves in the abominable trade for reasons that range from broken homes, peer group influence, illiteracy, and poverty to lack of parental care and control. Most of the juvenile sex traders are paid as little as N2,000 or N3,000 ‘per session’. They claim to make more money from servicemen who give as ‘high’ as N5,000.
It’s unforgivably cruel that these young girls sleep with up to seven men in one night. Besides risking sexually-transmitted diseases, many of them have sadly become drug addicts too.
Lamenting the situation, the Commissioner for Justice in Borno State, Hauwa Abubakar, said apart from underage prostitution, the number of rape cases has reached an alarming point in Borno State. She stated that rape cases, especially of minors, constituted 80 per cent of cases reported at the ministry on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP)’s zonal head of the Public Enlightenment Department in Maiduguri, Zainab Abba Bashir, admitted that violation of minors has been a major phenomenon in the state.
To secure the future of juvenile sex workers and save them from abuse by IDP camp officials and soldiers, we call on Governor Babagana Zulum and the state legislators to review existing laws on trafficking and prostitution with a view to enacting stiffer penalties for violators including persons that patronize the brothels. Penalties may include the demolition of structures used for harbouring juvenile sex workers. Parents’ nonchalant attitude of allowing their children to return to brothels after their rescue is condemnable and must, therefore, stop.