The outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic is having a toll on many businesses in Ghana. Interestingly, one of the hardest hit is the commercial sex industry.
Sex workers in Ghana are complaining of low patronage of their services due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Many of the workers the Ghana News Express spoke to over the weekend said they are struggling to get clients these days.
“We want to call on the government to come to our aid and support us. We are also Ghanaians with families” one of the sex workers said in an interview.
The Ghanaian community generally frowns on commercial sex business due to the cultural, moral and religious beliefs and values of it’s people.
Currently, sex trade is illegal in Ghana. Ironically, the commercial sex industry in Ghana, until the outbreak of the COVID 19, had been growing at an alarming rate.
Few years back, sex workers in Accra could only be found in few dark corners around the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, Cantonments, and Osu.
But now, more girls have joined the trade and are solicit for clients even in the open.
Sex workers can be found in almost all communities in Accra-from Teshie Nungua, Labadi, Lapaz, Nima, James Town, Korle Bu, Chorkor,Kasoa to Dansoman.
The Air-condition Bar at Asylum Down, the London Bar at Weija, Tinarikus Bar, and Area Code in Kasoa have become household names or popular ‘joints’ in the commercial sex industry in Accra.
The ‘Year of Return’ and related festivals like Afrochela in December last year brought a windfall.
Foreigners who engage in the commercial sex trade (mostly from Nigeria) who usually celebrate the holiday season with their families back home decided to stay in Ghana.
Unfortunately, the economic boom was followed with a sharp decline in demand for the services of sex workers due to the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic. Ghana recorded its first case on March 12 and, since then, the business has stalled.
The outbreak of the pandemic has therefore caused an evolution in commercial sex business in Ghana. Only the fittest among the sex workers are now surviving.
Sex workers have resorted to social media and the internet to look for clients in order to stay in business.
Internet applications like Meet4U on Google App Store are also gaining popularity because they create opportunities for sex workers to reach clients. They use websites like Exotic Ghana, Ghana Sex Hookup, etc to get clients.
The sex workers create accounts on these platforms and advertise themselves to potential customers. They upload their pictures, give out locations, contacts and, sometimes, advertise the kind of services they render.
Mavis, a 22-year-old sex worker, said the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic has affected her business, adding that, “the situation was even worse during the lockdown period”
She said when her friend and colleague introduced her to the sites, she created accounts and began to use the platforms to reach new customers.
“Initially, I was a bit hesitant and scared. We normally have brothels where we host our guests. We have boyfriends who protect us from attacks and abusers”.
“But now, we have to meet our clients in their homes and other places. Initially, it sounded too dangerous for me”
“However, when i started meeting new clients, i got comfortable. Some of the clients are very clean, gentle, and generous.
Some are married men. Others are big men we usually don’t see around the brothels and bars” she said.
Another sex worker, Rita, 25, said although she doesn’t get as many clients as before, the clients she meet on the internet have kept her in business.
“The money I make now is enough to keep me, my 5-year-old son, and my mother alive. Without that, things would have been difficult,” she said.
According to her, post COVID 19, internet can become a powerful avenue for them to meet more clients.
“I may not need to wear skimpy clothes or go to bars and night clubs for customers. I can live a normal and decent life while conducting my business privately”.
“Some clients I meet on the internet don’t even want to hang out in the night because they need to be with their families. They prefer to spend time during the day”.
“With that, I can also spend time with my son and mum at home in the night and work during the day. The job will be much easier,” she said.
The sex workers believe that Ghanaians can embrace their profession with an open mind and give them the necessary support to enable them help boost the country’s tourism and contribute to the economy.
Whether commercial sex business becomes legal or not in Ghana, it appears the industry will continue to grow post COVID 19.
By Enoch Siaw Ntiamoah