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Thursday 23 October  
Prostitutes in a bar in Dakar
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Dakar, Senegal
Dakar, Senegal

Dakar: Senegal's booming sex capital

Published on : 27 July 2010 - 4:47pm | By RNW Africa Desk (Photo: RNW/Sheriff Bojang Jnr.)
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Every day at 7pm, 23-year-old Rama carefully packs her cosmetics in a lady bag and heads for a popular bar nearby. The bar is a regular for rich Senegalese men and expatriates with posh cars and big bank accounts.

By Sheriff Bojang Jnr.

"You have sex with some men and they give you a fortune. It's a real business. No one loses." Rama is one of thousands of young sex workers flourishing in the streets, bars and nightclubs of Dakar. Most of them say they are driven into prostitution by poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunities.

Bilkisu is a 31-year-old Nigerian who moved to Dakar in 2008 after her friends told her about the booming sex trade in Dakar. "I was reluctant to come to Dakar because I did not speak French. But once I discovered the amount of money my friends were making and in what kind of houses they live in, I packed my bags and moved. Today I say Senegal is my home, because I have better opportunities here. Men are interested in prostitutes and they mostly pay you what you ask for - I'm home!"

In Senegal, prostitution has been legalised for decades. The official reason for this is to keep track of the health status of the prostitutes. But others say legalising prostitution is just a way of attracting tourists.

Police registry
Any woman over 21 can become a prostitute as long as she is registered with the police, has regular health checks, carries a valid sanitary card and is discrete.  But many of the prostitutes on Dakar's streets do not meet these requirements.

Rama, for example, thinks registering with the police is a waste of time: ""Why should I register with the police when I know that it will put me in funny situations? Lots of my friends who registered were discriminated against. The police would harass them, call them names and treat them like trash."

When Bilkisu arrived in Dakar, she was also advised by her room-mate and co-sex worker to register. It turned out to be a nightmare: "I was arrested. The police had a go at me for leaving my country. They said I was bringing disease and immoral behaviour to Senegal."

Rama's scar
Rights groups and NGO's have raised concerns over exploitation of sex workers. One group says sex workers are frequently victims of physical violence.

Rama once was a victim of an attack. She shows her scar in the back of her neck: "I was hit with a torch by a customer who refused to pay after sleeping with me. And sometimes customers deliberately break the condom because they don't like the idea it. They put both of us at risk."

For Bilkisu, however, customers aren't the biggest problem - it's the police. "They often pick you up from the street and trick you into bribing them. If you are unlucky, they take all you earned that night and warn you not to tell anyone."

Although Dakar is reportedly one of the biggest commercial sex capitals of Africa, it is unknown how many unregistered prostitutes work on the streets. So far the Senegalese government has no plans to outlaw prostitution.

So, as long as men are willing to flash their cash, no amount of risk or exploitation will keep Rama, Bilkisu and many of their colleagues from going onto the streets.

 

Discussion

Anonymous 23 July 2013 - 1:35pm / Jamaica

**Nothing to do with the sex trade** I am a singer who wants shows in Senegal. Check my website www.supportdimusic.com go on u tube and type in King Man friends official video.

Love Senegal.

Anonymous 18 June 2013 - 7:43am

THEY SHOULD ALSO LEGALISE BROTHELS,PIMPING AND PORNOGRAPHIES.PORN INDUSTRY WILL BOOM AND BRING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS AS TAXES. FOREIGN PORN MOVIES SHOULD BE BANNED AND LOCAL ONES PROMOTED.THEY SHOULD ALSO LEGALISE ABORTION,HOMOSEXUALITY AND LESBIANISM AND HOMOSEXUAL AND GAY MARRIAGES TO ATTRACT GAY TOURISTS. HAHAHA

suman 18 April 2013 - 8:46pm / Indian

senegal is good

Naeem UR Rehman 10 March 2012 - 10:32am / Pakistan(Lahore)

I like dakar girls wants to chating with pretty girls dakar senegal with my mail address.nrehman_178@yahoo.com for really friends ship.

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