I read this intriguing piece on the Al Jazeera website a few days ago, and it made me think of all of the layers involved. The first is that poverty will make you do things you never thought you would. Sometimes, feeding yourself or a child will make you make compromises that seem unthinkable.
Secondly, it occurred to me reading this that poverty is indeed sexist. he first time I heard that line, I thought it was another vain propaganda set up by the Feminazis. Lord knows I have seen poor men before, so the sentence was, to me, quite ludicrous.
But reading the piece, I think about women laying with expats they neither love nor fancy. If there is an opportunity in another country, the man will leave the woman and child(ren) behind to face the uncharted waters. He may return, he may not. She will be left to raise the kids herself. If the opportunity is tied to her womanhood (in the case of an expat marrying her or taking her abroad), she will have to leave her family and all that she knows to follow this man because money.
The other level I saw in the piece was that this is not an African problem or even a Kenyan problem. I remember spending three weeks in Thailand and wondering why I was so uncomfortable with the tourist-local couplings there when I took no offence to the Red Light District in Amsterdam. The feeling I could not shake was the desperation I saw in Thai girls’ eyes. These were all girls who’d flooded Bangkok from their native towns and villages, probably had sweethearts back home, but were sleeping with swarthy, sun-burnt British meatloaf with British bulldog tattoos on their arms for a few baht. You can’t tell me that is what every young girl dreams of doing when they grow up?
I was thinking about Nigerian way of life, our men’s pride in their wives and I thought “Na wa for East Africa o. This can never happen in Naija sha,” but I stopped myself. As with everything else, we are hypocritical even about our prostitution. I know countless men who “eat from the fat of the land” with no idea of where the money is coming from. Men who ask no questions about a generous “uncle” who is never at any family gathering though. There are men who will happily ride in a new car paid with “A loan I got from the bank” knowing full well that any banker would laugh them right out of the banking hall if they darkened its steps. It is happening already. Women are already prostituting under their husband’s roofs with their man’s implicit permission.
This is one of those articles that you will read over and over. Please do. And then let’s start to look at what change looks like.
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