THERE are numerous euphemisms that have been coined to describe ladies that engage in prostitution. They are called commercial sex workers, ladies of the night or ladies of the red light district and the derogative names; whores and sluts. But this one- pavement princess beats them all!
It was one of those busy Friday nights that I experienced my first ever ‘haggle’ with a prostitute. I was on my way to drop off a friend after an evening out. As I was about to turn off the main road I noticed an innocent looking girl arguably in her early 20’s standing by the road side in the chilling cold, unaccompanied.
So as not to unsettle my friend, I suppressed the urge to stop. But on my way back curiosity got the better of me, I resolved to find out why such a young lady would be out alone at such an ‘ungodly’ hour. Chantal (not her real names), was in no mood for pleasantries, she asked if I was ready for us ‘to go’. Her speech was incoherent; a closer look at her dentures revealed a gaping hole, the ‘trade’ had taken its toll on her inner and outer self.
Her suggestion to charge Rwf20, 000 for a night made all that remains of my hair literally stand. But this was not a time to be shocked, I was on a mission, I reminded my gobsmacked self. I suggested that I want to ‘do it’ without a condom. Her answer was sobering, she suggested Rwf30,000 without a condom. I asked her to stay put as I disappeared into the thick of the night.
If there was any proof needed for the role of prostitution in the transmission of HIV/AIDS, this was it. This paper in its 4th November edition ran a story on a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health which shows that prostitution contributes 43 percent of HIV transmission in the country.
With a national HIV prevalence rate standing currently at slightly above 3 percent, prostitution is too big an issue to be ignored. Prostitution remains illegal in Rwanda but this has not deterred the ‘world’s oldest profession’ from prospering largely due to the presence of willing buyers and sellers.
However, this is an issue that can be effectively addressed. Stories abound of former prostitutes who have abandoned the trade and are now engaged in more dignified income generating activities. The fight should be taken to the streets and dark corners where the prostitutes ply their trade.
There is another school of thought which postulates that prostitution is out of habit. This is another group that authorities at the Aids control commission and other NGO’s cannot afford to do without in their campaign. A condom campaign would suffice for this target group. The other category; the men who make the trade flourish cannot be put out of the equation. This is where the role of religion comes in handy. Prostitution and all who engage in it should be condemned at the altar and in every sanctuary. And finally, all Rwandans can, in unison declare that prostitution is ‘unRwandan.