The issue of prostitution is a complex one; it is so dynamic and hence its economics also. Prostitution exists with us and since we co-exist with it whether as participants, agents or onlookers; we as members of the society cannot afford to shy away from this phenomenon much as we try to. Prostitution is extremely wide spread, though the question of prostitution is a difficult and thorny subject that has received a little attention in Nigeria. Our reluctance to come to terms with the harm widespread of mass prostitution does to the entire society is highly hypocritical and comes with a lot of associated costs.
Economic reasons such as vicious circle of poverty have raised the tally of the women in crimes labeled among which is prostitution and women trafficking. The women’s involvement in prostitution though can be linked to poverty is not limited to it. Also most of the money generated from prostitution is expended on the sustenance of family, education, etc. Most women and children are not freely choosing to work in prostitution, “it is a choice based purely on economics of food and shelter”.
According to a World Bank report 20% of the world’s population possesses 86% of the world’s financial wealth. The assets of the three executives of Microsoft are more than the combined assets of the 43 poorest countries in the world – representing more than 600 million people. This has led to an increase in immiseration-the growing poverty of the mass of the population in the periphery.
Naanen (1991) writing on the history of prostitution in Nigeria’s upper Cross River Basin during the first half of the 20th century, traced the rise in commercial sex activities and blamed colonialism and even the sexual habits of the colonialists. Colonization led to an increasingly monetized economy where sex could be bought. This paper attempts to bring to the fore the problems posed by prostitution in a bid to attract attention to this menace with the view of finding solutions to this societal challenge.
Prostitution is said to be the world’s oldest profession. It is a complex and worldwide phenomenon. Kollantai 1921 sees prostitution as a phenomenon which is closely linked with unearned income. He further defines it as the act of selling one’s body for material benefit- for decent food, clothes and other advantages. It can then be said that for prostitution to take place; there must be an exchange at a cost-value, making prostitution an economic activity. It is however not limited to one sex alone but over the centuries, the females have been on the active side of providing the services with the males as the patrons.
The double standard and the depersonalization of sex combined, making sex a viable commodity in a society of consumers. The growing use of nudity and illicit sex scenes in the media, as an effective economic tool, and the focus on pleasure rather than work assisted the commercialization of sex. As it became defined in economic terms, society began to equate sex with success. Women derived their sexual success from desirability where as men’s success is measured by their ability to have or buy sex.
With success as a goal, the demand for sex as a commodity increases, creating a broader market for pornography and prostitution. In this economic system, most often lower class women, recognizing the monetary worth of their bodies, sell it as a means of income. This relationship makes urban areas the centres of prostitution because “the city” provides more sufficient patrons to make prostitution a profitable occupation. Prostitution is thus defined as a socio-economic phenomenon, illustrating a free market where every participant sells themselves for money or goods, exploits and is exploited and where some make more profits than others.
In that sense prostitution (including male prostitution) is an economic rather than a sexual phenomenon. On the other hand, prostitution illustrates clearly the gender difference which lies at the heart of the sexual system, and it is therefore not a by-product but at the very foundation of many economies.
The international labour organization for one has recognized prostitution as work. Whatever arguments, prostitution is one of the few ways in which women with no other skills and little education can earn a living. The United Nations believes that at least 10% of the world’s female population in urban areas earns all or part of their living working in prostitution. Prostitutes often argue that they are also therapists. Therapy now includes “sex surrogacy “- where substitute female partners help men who lack sexual experience or suffer feelings of inadequacy in bed. Sex surrogates would certainly not see themselves as prostitutes, and yet they perform sexual service for money.
Those who sell sex are as diverse as sex itself. Most are female, some are male. Most are heterosexual, many lesbian or gay. Some see prostitution as a personal tragedy; others have chosen it freely. Prostitution and sex tourism fall under a more general category of sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation happens when one person (or persons) receive(s) sex or money through another person’s sexuality. For instance, prostitution entails a man receiving sex while a pimp may receive the money using a woman as a prostitute. In sex tourism, a foreigner may pay a sex travel agency for a trip to Nigeria which includes airfare, hotel, food and women for sex.
Sex trafficking is defined by the European Union as the transportation of women with the goal of sexual exploitation with or without their consent. The concepts of prostitution are dynamic especially with the advancement of capitalism and the growth of globalization, yet they all centrally revolve around a pivot; sex is purchased through prostitution no matter the guise.
Causes of Prostitution:
As already stated poverty and the excuse of poverty drives the trading in prostitution and wealth increases the buying power of the patrons while at the same time raising the allure for more players. This means that inequitable distribution of income which is reinforced by corruption and high rate of unemployment are among the major drivers f prostitution. Towns grew where both goods and sex could be more easily bought. Discriminatory practices against women like widows or sterile women who are driven out of their homes; is another major cause of prostitution.
The demand for commercial sex in itself is another major cause for increase in prostitution. Long distance truck drivers and men with high sexual drive seem to push up this category of demand –induced prostitution. The revolution in Information and communication technology (ICT) has radically influenced the choice of women participants in prostitution. ICT enhances the recruitment and participation in prostitution through e-prostitution. Ladies keep their pictures and mobile numbers in hotels for clients and patrons to contact them. Modern technology has made them to now see what glamour is; and the crave for material wealth as evident in the society is driving more and more people to work in this industry.
The Market structure of the Industry:
Prostitution can be decomposed into four forms; institutional, freelance, corporate and international prostitution respectively. The first is mostly practiced in the hotels, brothels and bars while the second is a single sex operator. Corporate prostitution occurs when ladies are compelled into sleeping with their bosses to get jobs, promotions or even keep their jobs; or when female workers must sleep with clients to achieve their targets. The last one involves cross border prostitution which involves smuggling and human trafficking
Prostitution integrates most of the various market situations. It is often a monopolistic competition because the sex providers can be differentiated. High valued prostitutes can however become monopsonists when they attract and restrict individual clients to themselves alone. Also the supply of clients can be a monopsony or oligopoly when one or a few rich clients become the sole or few patrons of a sex worker(s). In other cases prostitutes form cartels to maximize the benefit s from the trade. Outsourcing is very rampant where madams or established prostitutes provide younger ladies or new entrants to men who will in turn pay them for acting as suppliers. Consequently the value chain moves in both directions from the clients to the sex providers or from the sex providers to the patrons through intermediaries.
Most of the women are below the age of 30 years, indeed many see prostitution as a stage in their life circles because men demand younger women. The women see this period as one when they can and must save for later investment back home. Unfortunately in the modern day, even ladies from comfortable backgrounds, students and some working class ladies have been attracted to the glamour which prostitution provides, and hence they have joined in the trade at the economic sphere of ostentatious living rather than necessity. Even Professional and other employed ladies engage in prostitution on a part time basis.
Benefits of Prostitution:
The benefits of commercial sex for the supplier is that prostitution even after food and clothing and the institutions cut are taken into account is lucrative. The average prostitute makes as much money as a senior civil servant. The flow of sophisticated young women into towns and cities like Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Kano, Jos, Benin and Ibadan among others is a product of modernization. Naanen (1991) showed that half a century ago, the remittances from prostitutes into Obubra of South East Nigeria amounted to more than double the public revenue, contributed to house building and family support.
Costs of Prostitution:
Commercial sex is an active source of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV and AIDS. Prostitution is becoming more of a dangerous profession, with the increase in crime rates ladies working in prostitution stand a high chance of becoming victims of rape, kidnapping and rituals. Daily trust newspaper of May 18, 2010 on page 41 reported the story of a 22 year old female undergraduate who jumped from the third floor of a hotel in Abuja to escape ritualists. She broke her waist in the process; she had been picked the previous night to sleep with a client (who happened to be an agent of a ritualist) at the rate of N4, 000 only.
Prostitution discourages hard work because it gives the ladies the false impression that there is an alternative to success through selling their bodies for money or favour. This brings about moral decadence in the society and is a major reason for human trafficking which results to human degradation and also sex slavery.
Control Measures Against Prostitution:
The Family Based Approach: Should be the fundamental and primary control measure. Family values must be reintroduced and entrenched at the very tender age with close monitoring through the formative years into adulthood.
Community/Religious Based Approach: must be emphasized to save the society from the pollution caused by prostitution. It should be a participatory /collaborative method designed to expose the dangers of prostitution on the individuals and society while encouraging the populace on the merit of morality and hard work. Counseling and rehabilitation facilities should be made available both for preventive and corrective measures. The media must reduce its sensational portrayal of sex as a tool for exploitation and achievement.
The Government Approach: comes in the area of ensuring adequate living standard with qualitative human development indices to all citizens. Corruption must be minimized, poverty alleviated, infrastructure provided, education subsidized and employment generated or the opportunities enabled. Rural areas should be developed and urban poverty with high rate of population densities must be checked. People who exploit others sexuality for greed or money should be brought to book and border control should be enforced to check human trafficking.
The Radical Approach: like the current moves by the incumbent minister of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja to flush out prostitutes who have refused to leave the trade. However care must be taken to put in place adequate measures and incentives for the prostitutes to buy into scheme, else they will go under and this will distort the supply of commercial sex. This in turn will only create black markets and hike up the price of commercial sex. Again this will serve as a multiplier effect to motivate more prostitutes to find ways of circumventing the government since it will become more lucrative at a distorted supply rate.
It is clear that economics more than any other factor propels prostitution. This could be economics of needs or economics of wants, economics of survival or economics of luxury. In the short run the boom is an incentive with attendant benefits but in the long run the doom to the individual or society is a collateral damage. The economics invariable becomes a diseconomy with the industry creating disequilibrium. The big challenge is to identify the major causes of prostitution like poverty, dislocation of the actors from their families, corruption, and the commercialization of sex among others.
Adequate measures at both the governmental and nongovernmental levels must be taken to address these causes. Radical control measures taken must be careful not to criminalize the prostitutes. Rather they should be integrated. Prostitution should be taken out of the prostitutes and not just mere taking them out of prostitution.
In addition, because prostitution is deeply rooted in economics, making it illegal doesn’t reduce the persistence of male demand. Illegalization, however transforms prostitution into a subculture with a criminal status. Once a prostitute has a criminal status, she becomes trapped in an economic and criminal cycle that facilitates societal rejection. In the final analysis the economics of prostitution is a zero-sum gain; the disadvantages far outweigh any perceived advantages.
Daily Trust May 18, 2010 page 41
Naanen B. 1991. Itenerant gold mines’: prostitution in the Cross River Basin of Nigeria 1930-1950.African Studies Review 34:57-79
Pat Caldwell 1995. Prostitution and the Risk of STDs and AIDs in Nigeria and Thailand: Supplement to Health transition Review Volume 5.
Pickering, H. and H.A Wilkins. 1993. Do unmarried women in African towns have to sell sex, or is it a matter of choice? Pp17-27 in Sexual Networking and HIV/AIDS in West Africa.
NGEX welcomes and encourages reader comments. Permission to post reader comments is assumed, and we reserve the right to excerpt or edit for clarity any comments that are posted. We won't be able to publish all comments. And we can't vouch for the accuracy of posts from readers. Nickname or Name will be used to identify your post.
Pyramid Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia December 09, 2010
Results » 1-1 of 1 Result Page » < 1 >
"The views and opinions expressed in these comment(s) or article(s) do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of NGEX, its partners or its affiliates."