Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sex workers choose own paths

PHOTO | FILE Sex work, or prostitution, is a thriving ‘industry’ in the country and cannot be wished away.

PHOTO | FILE Sex work, or prostitution, is a thriving ‘industry’ in the country and cannot be wished away.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By CLAY MUGANDA

There I was seated at a corner of a pub, having a polite drink when my space was suddenly invaded by a rude patron who demanded an answer to a question she was about to ask. As a person who earns a living from asking questions, I should not get mad when roles are reversed, but it gets nasty when I have to give up my rights to refuse to answer because I am being forced to commit that whatever the question is.

“Can you go ahead and ask the question,” I said, trying not to lose my cool even though my inquisitor looked like someone had suffered a bad night at the office.

“Tell me that you will answer,” she insisted, and for a moment I thought of walking away, then I told myself that if she was getting a kick out of harassing me, I was not going to let her have her fun at my expense.

Thinking she was reasonable enough and was going to see that I was ready to “cooperate” I told her to cut to the chase and ask the question, but she still dug in for a commitment.

“Fine, I will answer,” I gave in and when this Big Question was asked, I wondered what the hullabaloo was all about.

“What do you think about commercial sex workers?” she asked. I fought the urge to tell her that they are just sex workers and there was no need to add ‘commercial’ since I never refer to myself as a commercial media worker, but I just wanted her to go away.

When I told her that I do not think about them, she felt offended, not because I had gone off the script and given an unexpected answer, but because she felt that I did not recognise their existence and therefore her presence. For emphasis, she threw in the word prostitute, and the pronoun I, as in “I am a prostitute and I am doing this because I do not have a job.”

Of course you are one of them and that is why you have such low self-esteem, an inferiority complex that ironically makes you feel superior enough to feel offended when someone fails to recognise your presence. You then bully him before you spilling your heart-wrenching story about your child who needs to be fed, financial needs and the fact that you have nothing else but your body to sell.

You can justify prostitution by calling it the world’s oldest profession, but when you add sob stories about how difficult life is, you become heartless and callous, a person who cares nothing about human suffering — the only difference is that you are your own victim.

Sex work, or prostitution, is a thriving ‘industry’ in the country and cannot be wished away, but we should admit that a majority of those who engage in it do so out of choice and should therefore live with the consequences without blaming the society.

Maybe some of them are comfortable with it as a profession and do not blame the society for their ‘woes;, but generally, when the stories of these twilight girls (and boys) are aired in the media like it was done last week, our hearts start bleeding and we see them more as victims than people who saw sex work as a viable income-generating activity.

If you ask me — and it is a good thing that no one has so far asked me — prostitution is an excuse used by lazy people who feel that they are too sweet, and too busy to look for other ways of earning an income. They then ‘sell’ themselves, gradually moving to the highest bidders before being forced to degrade themselves further and offer themselves to the lowest bidders like the group that was featured in the KTN documentary last week.

From the comfort of our armchairs, we can feel as much sympathy as we want for those women and men, but we should also have the courtesy to respect their wishes, their choice of profession because they are able-bodied and can engage in any other income-generating activity like most people do.

If I remember well, none of those women who were featured in the documentary was a victim of human trafficking or was being pimped. They are strong enough to withstand cold nights but still see themselves as victims without access to other forms of income-generating activities. And they hope to receive some special attention or protection from the same system which has blocked their paths to economic freedom.

Of course it is wrong to condemn them without acknowledging the fact that their clients are equally guilty or that they could not have existed if there were no clients. This does not make them victims. They chose this path because they figured it was the best and easiest way of making ends meet, they should thus treat all hardships as professional hazards.

Already, I can hear the voices of those who work with vulnerable women and children reminding me about the much-talked about fish for sex scam which ‘studies’ reveal force women into prostitution” in certain parts of Nyanza province.

Well, give me a break good people, fish-for-sex-whatever definitely makes for good narrative, and is as real as the millions of residents of Kibera slums — but sex work or prostitution in Kenyan towns is largely out of choice.

As a matter of fact, most men or women who decide to become prostitutes or sex workers have low self-esteem, love their comfort zones and cannot think beyond their body parts. Thy are underachievers. Just a bunch of serial whiners with an excuse for everything.

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Where will all analysts go?

The elections are over and we will probably sleep easier unless the noise which the winners will make thumping their chests is louder than what they made while campaigning.

Suffice it to say that we might have to put up with some noises still, but they will not be any louder than the noises they made during the campaign period.

Well, the campaign period was an eye opener of sorts. We discovered that there is a lot of untapped talent in the form of experts who came out of the woodwork to put everything into perspective and break it down for us mere mortals who did not know that the elections will be won by the person who gets the highest number of votes.

Of course there was a breakout of political strategists, analysts and Senior Political Reporters — which begs the question: Now that elections are over, what will these people morph into?

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Nairobi girls, learn from Susan

On Monday last week, while political animals were preparing to watch the second presidential debate, a section of Kenyans were atwitter over a certain Nairobi girl’s appearance on a television dating game show the previous Friday.

Susan is a pretty young lady, tired of being single, thus she contacted the producers of the show to hook her up with an eligible bachelor.

They found a match for Susan — who hails from the Industrial Area estate of South C which has produced all of Kenya’s celebutards — and they went out on a date where she decided to put the sheng-speaking young man in his rightful place.

First, according to her, he was not well-dressed and then he did not know that women like her do not eat fried.

To make matters worse, he did not have cash but plastic money which according to a widely-travelled Susan who loves fencing and tennis and had watched the Australian Openings, is for ghetto people, which she is not, and thus prefers removing crumpled currency notes from her purse.

Of course Susan was flabbergasted by her date’s mannerisms just as much as her date was dumbfounded by her demeanour. Public opinion was skewed in favour of the man, until Cess and Makosewe, the female hosts of an afternoon FM radio show went on air and put their votes in Susan’s handbag which also received enough flak.

Even then, Susan did not win the war of the sexes and the producers of the show pleaded with viewers to stop being nasty. Susan received a lot of brickbats more so from her peers the Nairobi girls who I can vouchsafe are not any better. As a matter of fact, they were not mad at her because she lacks finesse, but because she exposed their vacuity and lack of elegance.

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