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25.11.2008 Feature Article

Daring Into Forbidden Territories

In this job, there are certain areas I dread to go, but when compelled by uncontrollable circumstances, I do so with a lot of caution and great circumspection. This is because whether we like it or not, certain issues are realities of life that must be confronted, no matter the dangers inherent in the attempt.

Take religion, for example. For years we have watched in silent submission while many questionable churches and numerous pseudo-religious bodies have mushroomed all around us. 

Any person who can recite a few biblical quotes from his lips could hold thousands or even millions captive, bestowing on himself/herself every title imaginable — bishop, prophet/prophetess, general overseer, chairman, president, etc — short of the ultimate, God, the Father Himself.  In fact, some have come close to making that declaration, except that they have toned it down to God's Representative on earth.

Indeed, some have claimed to be the Messiah himself.  Remember Jesus Christ of Dzorwulu?

We have all, in our desperation to satisfy our divine and spiritual needs, one way or another, fallen victim to these Men of God whose activities defy any control or state intervention, and any attempt to bring some kind of order and decency into matters of religion is likely to draw severe rebukes from so-called believers. That is forbidden territory and  no one should question those who put themselves between us sinners and God.

In other words, anyone discussing religion risks being labelled the devil incarnate if there is any attempt to question the status quo.  The state itself has been forced into impotence, while persons claiming to be men and women of God exploit innocent people and amass wealth they are not under any obligation to account for or pay tax on.

While these saviours stuff their pockets with millions from their adherents for their personal aggrandisement, they expect the state to use the taxpayer's money to build schools, hospitals and roads and provide cheap power and water systems for their comfort.

Today, so infectious is the salvation message that most of our productive hours are spent clapping, shouting and singing in search of the ever-elusive redemption.

Try talking about polygamy and you will come under an avalanche of verbal attacks, especially from those married women who value monopoly, even though a good number of them would prefer perching to remaining single if they were to find themselves on the other side of the river.

  We never want to take a closer look at the option to see whether there are any advantages.  

We never want to accept the fact that considering the female/male ratio, many of our women, through no fault of theirs, will forever remain unmarried. But since everybody is entitled to the good things of life and it is the right of everyone to get attached, there will naturally be stampede and gatecrashing into some marital  homes.  

Our various traditional systems recognise this fact and abhor adultery, fornication and all other illicit sexual escapades and, therefore, encourage men to do things in the open and responsibly so that relationships are legitimised and recognised by society, instead of being operated in the shadows.  In some religions, polygamy is recognised but with an injunction that the man must be fair to all and give equal respect and treatment to his wives.  What more can there be in a good marriage, apart from security, mutual love and respect?

That brings us to the main subject for this discussion — prostitution —  another forbidden territory. A few months ago, the subject came up for public discussion to determine how best to address the phenomenon of prostitution.

Some were of the opinion that it was time we confronted prostitution frontally and accepted it as part of human behaviour that could not be done away with, whether through religious pontification or legal restriction.  Already, it has been described by many as the oldest profession, lending credence to those who argue that having stayed with mankind for as long as human beings have been on this earth, it is time prostitution was accorded its proper place and given the necessary legislation. 

To these people, legalising it will bring about some amount of checks and balances and inject some kind of sanity to protect the interest of both the client and the service provider. They argue further that sex is an integral part of our lives as human beings and that whether married or not, man will always find an avenue to satisfy this  important biological demand through fair or foul means.  That is why we have crimes like rape, defilement and even incest. So why pretend that a serious thing like prostitution, which provides an avenue for tension release, can be  outlawed to make society better of?

As is expected, there were those in the other camp who were shouting themselves hoarse condemning this view and quoting some religious verses or moral codes.  How could you make commercial sex a legitimate business? they questioned.  It would destroy the moral fibre of our daughters and sisters and bring total damnation to our society, they chorused.  HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases would have a field day and transport a big chunk of the population to their premature deaths, the voices of dissent continued to vibrate all over. Those loudest in that crusade were the men in collar and cassock. 

 But how many of them can stand out as role models when it comes to such matters of morality?

Those against the legislation have valid points because legalising a bad thing does not make it good.  But the truth is that the more we condemn it and shy away from its legislation, the more prostitution flourishes and engulfs more and more of the population, especially the younger generation.  This is because apart from satisfying a biological function, prostitution also has something to do with our socio-economic environment.

Prostitution is simply defined as exchanging sex for money.  Going by that, there are many people, both men and women, who are engaged in prostitution of a sort. We may go to Soldier Bar at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle or any other cheap brothel and raid the place and parade some poor girls as prostitutes. But are we telling all the full story?

Are we oblivious to the fact that many men, high and low and cutting across all professions and vocations, engage women in sex and in return pay them or offer them some kind of gifts, services or favours? Most of these women look quite respectable in the eyes of the public as working professionals, students, traders and what have you but they are always at the beck and call of men of all types for a good day's business. Unfortunately, both married men and women cannot be counted out of the business.

   Are we blind to see the so-called respectable men in government and business who drive those expensive vehicles stopping to pick the women who stand sentry around the Togo Embassy every evening? Do we know that some young women stand at strategic locations in Accra and other big towns pretending to be looking for lifts but are actually looking for a sexual business partner?

The business has become even more brisk and more convenient with the entry of the cellular phone into our lives. As long as  it is agreed that these women and their male counterparts are not couples, whatever they do in the form of intimacy is illicit and cannot be distanced from those poor souls we occasionally arrest, harass and describe as prostitutes.  

The difference is that one group has declared its position — demonstrating their services openly for those who are ready to pay — while the other is living behind a facade of respectability, decency, chastity, celibacy, name them, but doing the same thing, maybe in its most serious and crudest form.  So whom are we deceiving?

Are we ready to call a spade a spade and not just a digging tool? Are we going to pretend that we can stop a vocation which was initiated by our great, great, great, grandfathers and grandmothers?  Are we ready to face the issue squarely and come to terms with its reality and inevitability so that, somehow, there can be a control and regulatory mechanism to protect and safeguard all those involved in it?

 I know this is forbidden territory, but what needs to be told must be told.  At the end of the day, we cannot claim to be better off than those who have taken the lead to stare the truth in the face.

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Feature ByKofi Akordor

Daily Graphic
Daily Graphic, © 2008

The author has 236 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: DailyGraphic

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