Nothing can be more illustrative of our society revulsion than the state of complete despondency characterized by the epidemic of commercial sexual exploitation of our young girls. This viscous decadence brings into reflection Amma Darko’s didactic piece, faceless, where she descants a devastating tale of an afflicted society that seems to have lost its grip on the lives of its children. It is a galling story of a society that has developed a tragic ability of guiding its young ones, especially the girl child, into a life dedicated to prostituting every conceivable virtue for the sake of flimsy material possessions.
We will be living in delusion not to admit that this vicious life as portrayed by Amma Darko is not indicting our societal digestion of immorality and humane debility that has nurtured a congenial ambience for the alienation, abuse and dehumanization of young women.
Night after night on major streets, we see teeming army of girls, some of who are teenagers in the gleaming lights of the night posing for lustful men to procure them into the coven of abashment.
Inciting this absurdity is the proliferation of brothels on our major cities where dope-headed young girls dance half-naked every night to the pleasure of men of ages and classes. Sadly, a sight that should disturb every responsible parent has become the source of wealth and delight for debauchees as many of these innocent girls in the process are coaxed to all forms of risky and heinous crimes, from drug peddling, weapon smuggling to being informant to criminals. Such is the evil of life floating on our street unchallenged.
Besides the cherished concept of upholding societal values through good upbringing and sense of solidarity to humankind, which many African societies are build upon, the mystique of children portrays them as the greatest treasure any society can posses as they are to be offered unconditional affection. It is, thus, unfortunate that this sacred value is swiftly becoming the misery pelting the probity of our legacy.
The Nigeria society at present is bereft of an organised system that could curtail the pellucid of this ugly trend. Barely a year ago, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), recounted that a huge number of Nigerian transient young women conveyed to Italy were in incredible threat of being constrained into prostitution in Europe. IOM categorically stated that each of them were “potential casualties” of trafficking as sex labourers as they are often brought to Italy and Europe for sexual exploitation.
What we are seeing now in terms of the numbers and scale of the criminal trade in Nigerian women is unprecedented. Before, the women were exploited but there was a chance that they could pay off their debts and be free. But now, they really are slaves who are subjected to terrible violence. Such is the vice pervading our society. The very society we are purporting to the world is one whose dignity and societal value are being enervated while leaving its future unconscious.
The magnitude of this fiend and its consequences are fast depleting our whole essence as we continue to be delinquent in our common sense of responsibility. We must stop pretending to the reality that a large number of adolescents are making a living on the streets daily, and these vulnerable children are being brandished to the devouring jaws of the street and the lurking danger of men with devilish intentions.
Meanwhile, the problem of teenage prostitution has grown beyond any individual or organization; it requires the sort of collaboration and partnership that connect global efforts with multilateral policies of national government because the damage is both psychological and psychosocial. At this point, the country must appraise its social structure where all reforming initiatives must spring from and incubate a comprehensive strategy anchored on the right to dignity and decent life of citizens.
At first, government needs to be aware of the factors that influence routes into this societal devastation such as; childhood abuse, poverty, lack of access to education, rising inequality, population growth and breakdowns in family relationships, if they are to provide relevant and appropriate interventions. Exploring these socio-cultural, economical and political bankruptcies would help in highlighting cognitive initiatives that are consistent and practical.
Glaringly, moribund policy and narrow concept have been the peculiarity of many government intervention programmes in recent years. This inconsistency has always downplay the sincerity of government strive and breeds contempt among its citizens. Criminalising child prostitution and trafficking might not really be the answer as lapses in our justice system often frustrate legal process. Hence, we need a more dynamic approach, aside enforcing law to effectively curtail this atrocious enterprise. Thus, we need to employ more pragmatic and multi dimensional measures.
To free this society from the burden of this accumulated guilt, direct community engagement, advocacy and strategic partnerships are sacrosanct. A desirous way to go about this is for the government to initiate a harmonise policy that will strengthen agencies that have wide rural and urban presence and develop an outreach program that focuses on reducing the effect of social stratification. Our society is reprehensively disconnected along religion, ethnic and socio-economic status as we care less of others misfortune. This social ailment is inadvertently leveraging on this communal infraction because it offers a breeding space for it to wreck the society of its essence.
Before it looks like there is nothing dignified and decent left for this society to offer its spring of hope, religious community should swiftly offer refuge to the society. The fact remains that this pestilent climate is the aftermath of our collapse family value and it therefore behoves on our spiritual comrades to liberate the society from this scourge and other destructive tendencies. By virtue of its pristine, the religious community is expected to be at the vanguard of extricating has the society from this flagitious adventure.
We need to all rise to rescue the future from this disaster hanging over the society. If not, some day, they will stand against us in the future. This is, thus, a clarion call to all men and women in whatever capacity to procure the destiny of young girls from this whirlwind of indecency. Their therapy must include those on streets, brothels, call girls, and casual, part-time, or floating prostitutes, as well as the victims of human trafficking who are destitute at international borders. Their timely effort should exhume the many buried voices of helpless children and help them find smile they have lost.
On a final note, there is need for strategic public enlightenment campaigns exclusively planned to discourage teenage prostitution. This must involved critical stakeholders such as faith based organizations, traditional institution, government agencies, child right advocates, the media and NGOS. For us to really reclaim our sanity as a people, this is the time to resolutely tackle this ugly phenomenon. God bless Nigeria.
Akinfenwa is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.