Famine heightens prostitution in Niger

Niamey- Niger (PANA) -- The current famine in Niger has increased prostitution among young girls and women in the capital, Niamey, where they are obliged to sell sex to meet their personal needs and those of their families.
After famine forced them to flee their villages, these young women carry out domestic chores during the day before engaging in commercial sex at night.
For more than an hour, Miss Hajara, dressed in a tight trouser and tee- shirt, which expose her bodyline, has been keeping a watchful eye for potential clients in one of the streets of Niamey.
Each time a man passes nearby, the teenager who continually chews a gum, makes a sound with her mouth, or softly mumbles "bonsoir monsieur" (good evening sir).
"I wonder why clients are so rare today.
Not a single person has approached me since I arrived here, although I think I am well perfumed and dressed, don't you think so? Yesterday was a good day because I had some work and went home with 5,000 FCFA," she confided to a PANA journalist in Niamey.
(US$1 = 530 FCFA) Miss Hajara spoke to the journalist without any complex although she could not conceal her concern and deception.
"I have not deliberately chosen to become a prostitute.
Our tradition, Islam, and common sense tell me that it is wrong for a woman to sell her body.
Today, I feel a deep humiliation and loss of dignity," she confided.
"But, do I have any alternatives? I must do it to get food.
I left my village and family due to lack of resources.
The two cows, three sheep and five goats we once owned have all died due to starvation," she added.
Several metres away stands another young girl clad in a mini-skirt that clearly exposes her well-built legs.
"Mister, come to me, I am not expensive, I'm sure you can afford," she said, beckoning the PANA journalist, mistaking him for a client.
The tall and light-skinned Miss Sitta, who possesses an attractive chest, has what it takes to attract men.
Unlike Miss Hajara, who hides in a street corner, Miss Sitta prefers to stand in a floodlight to attract her clients.
"I work as a housemaid for a couple of expatriates that pays me 20,000 FCFA (about US$40) per month.
It is true they also feed me, but the salary is too low to meet my requirements and those of my family," she told the inquisitive PANA reporter.
"However, even if I want money, I make sure I protect my health.
I refuse to sleep with any man without a condom for fear of contracting AIDS," she claimed.
Famine forced the two girls to flee their villages near Niamey several months ago and have been living with families in the capital since.
"It is shameful, but we are trying to cope with the situation.
We need money to feed and help our families, apart from buying clothes and the food we need," says Miss Hajara.
"Don't try to blame these young girls.
It is difficult for them to maintain their dignity.
The same thing occurred in the country's urban centres during the famine of 1974 and 1984.
"This type of prostitution will subside at the end of famine," says Hamadou Hassan, an elderly resident in a Niamey suburb who has witnessed hunger in Niger before the current one.

09 Setembro 2005 21:39:00

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