Pictured above is a proud Nigerian prostitute named Patoo Abraham who led a protest for sex workers’ rights in Lagos recently. Found the report on Al Jazeera. Read and be amazed…:-)
Patoo Abraham has become famous for fighting for the rights of prostitutes, but what she – and those she is trying to help – do to make a living is illegal and frowned upon by many in the country.
Abraham is not only proud of her profession but is also campaigning to ensure that prostitution is legalised and that sex workers are respected in Africa’s most populous country.
The 48-year-old has led a couple of protests in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, demanding the rights of prostitutes in a country where sex vendors suffer physical harm at the hands of their punters. Continue…
Under the auspices of different organisations, scores of prostitutes marched on the streets of Lagos, chanting provocative slogans.
This boldness is unprecedented, and the protesters carried their signature red umbrellas and T-shirts with the inscription “Sxs work is work, we need our rights.”
“We are tired of dying in silence,” Abraham, who heads the Nigerian chapter of African Sxs Workers Alliance (ASWA), told Al Jazeera. “We want to be able to practise our profession with pride like every other person. We want an end to name-calling and stigmatisation. We are sex workers and not asawo [a Yoruba derogatory name for prostitutes].”
Sxs work, said Abraham, is normal work and that there are “sex workers everywhere under one form of disguise or the other”. “[The] government should stop criminalising our work,” said the woman who is also the president of the Women of Power Initiative (WOPI), a non-governmental organisation established to advance the cause of sex work in Nigeria.
Although Nigeria has posted impressive economic growth, overtaking South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy, unemployment remains widespread and many Nigerian women have ended up working as prostitutes in part because they cannot find work.
Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in April that no fewer than 5.3 million youths are jobless, and the World Bank last year put the number of Nigerians living in destitution at 100 million.
With large earrings and a face flamboyantly made up, Abraham sat in her busy office, which she shares with another organisation, and told Al Jazeera how she took the advice of her sister, a former prostitute, when life as a single parent became too tough for her.
Though reluctant then, she now sees it as any other business and has no regrets.
“Just as you are proud of your profession, that is how I am proud of mine. Just as you are respected for being a journalist, that is how I want to be respected,” said Abraham.
Abraham uses the pseudonym “Patoo” in her daily work – a name she chose to hide her identity when she began work as a prostitute.
She said her two children – a son and a daughter – are at university and she pays tuition fees for them. They do not know her occupation, she said, although she marched on the streets of Lagos for all to see.
In this oil-rich country of more than 160 million people ravaged by poverty and deprivation, Abraham’s work seems lucrative. But Abraham and other women in this business still have the authorities and people to contend with.
One of the prostitutes who identified herself only as Janet, spoke of how police arrest them indiscriminately, raiding their brothel even when they are with their clients.
“Sometimes, after reluctantly paying for our services, they arrest us and take us to the [police] station and ask us to bail ourselves with the same amount they paid us, thereby recovering their money,” Janet said in pidgin English.
“Some of us sustain serious injuries when our customers beat us up and there is no one to protect us,” she added.
Other women raise even more serious complaints. Outspoken and HIV-positive, 35-year-old Ayide, the only name she gave in order to be quoted, attended o