Joy is a woman of easy virtue and she is not hiding it. She has operated at Kuramo, a slum in the heart of Jakande, Lekki, in the Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, for about three years now.
On this Tuesday evening, when our correspondent visited, she was lively as she laughed hysterically after a colleague said something that sounded funny.
She wore tight-fitted high-waist flowery leggings and a white brassier, which seemed to be advertising her supple breasts and dark pointed nipples.
Her brown wig was stylishly packed backwards. With her heavy make-up, she seductively stared at men passing by, batting her eyelashes at anyone who cared to look in her direction, while simultaneously packing and adjusting her breasts as if they could fall out.
She smacked her luscious lips and flashed a smile at a man, who appeared indecisive.
He passed by her and went for another lady.
One feature, however, stood Joy out: her two ears were not pierced. This reporter later understood she attended a popular Pentecostal church that preached against women wearing jewelry.
Aside from the obvious stretch marks on her stomach, Joy also had some legible marks around her back and arms.
The 38-year-old woman explained that they were from the beatings she got in her broken marriage.
While speaking to Saturday PUNCH, she said she got into prostitution to pull her family “out of the shackles of poverty.”
She said she had been on the job for five years and came to Kuramo just three years ago, where she joined other sex workers.
Although no one could categorically state when Kuramo became an abode for prostitutes, residents agreed the area had been popular for sexual pleasure for about 20 years.
The little huts, made up of wooden planks and nylons, are lined up along the road and men throng them, almost crawling into the huts to satisfy their libido.
Joy, a mother of two, said in her first six months of venturing into the trade, she helped her mother erect a structure in the Ikorodu area of Lagos.
Although she claimed she was looking for a way out of the “streets”, she vowed never to allow “stinking poverty” get a hold of her family again.
“The fact that I’m here does not mean I am a lazy woman. I am a strong woman. I have done businesses in the past, including farm work, but this stinking poverty must die,” she said while punching an imaginary enemy with a cackle.
She continued, “My father died early and left my mother to raise six children all by herself; I am the third child. Our older brother, the first child, then developed a sickness that drained all the money from my mother. We all could not go to school because any little money that came in went for his health. We never stayed in one house for more than one month; they were always chasing us away like a curse because of my brother’s sickness. There was no one to help us, whether uncles, brothers, aunties, my whole family is poor. My mother was always in tears.”
Aside from her family troubles, Joy said she compounded the situation by entering a wrong marriage at 25.
She noted that her military husband was always beating her while also cheating on her.
She said, “I had two children for him and we used to live in the barracks; our house was a room and a parlour. Beating me was a normal thing to him; he would also bring women to the house even with our two children around. Many times, we would hear him having sex with them in the parlour while we’re in the room. Sometimes, I would come out and meet them and he would continue like nobody was there. After I summoned the courage to leave him, I didn’t look back; I took my children to my mother.”
It was at this point she said a childhood friend, who had also experienced abuse in marriage, introduced her to prostitution.
Joy said she vowed to give her mother a better life and provide money for the treatment of her sick brother.
“That stinking poverty was too much. We had suffered enough for a lifetime. I believe in God; I attend a Bible-believing church and that is why I don’t wear earrings. But when life pushes you to the wall, you have to push back; giving up is not an option for me.
“I am the only person who is into prostitution; I didn’t allow any of my sisters to join me in this; some are even married. The only regret I have is that I was not able to help my elder brother, who was sick. Before I could gather enough money for his treatment, he had died. I have done all I wanted to do, I will soon retire from this work,” she added.
Poverty, prostitution, AIDS
Poverty has been said to be a leading cause of prostitution, a trade that is thriving in different parts of the country.
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Nigeria is home to an estimated 103,506 prostitutes.
The UNAIDS further stated that sub-Saharan Africa has about 60 per cent of the world’s population that are living with AIDS, even though they only make up 10 per cent of the population.