Ghana’s seaport of Takoradi has regained its former vibrancy in the past year since President John Atta Mills turned the wheels to mark the production of first oil. But with oil comes expat oilmen who in turn increase the demand for prostitution.
by Francis Kokutse, Takoradi
As an old harbor city and the western regional capital, Takoradi is remembered by older residents with much nostalgia for when it was Ghana’s only port during colonial times. However these residents are also aware that the issue of prostitution is not a new phenomenon.
As James Aidoo (86), a retired port worker, observes: “Prostitution has always been around because sailors were coming here and had to enjoy themselves in town. A lot of women came here and a few of the luckier ones ended up marrying a sailor and being taken away.”
“But what we see today is worrying because, with all the talk about HIV and AIDS, one would expect that young people would be very careful. But that is not what is happening here,” says Aidoo. “Some of the women just want to go out with the oil workers because they believe they have a lot of money.”
Some local women believe the term “prostitute” is being overused and applied to anyone who happens to be going out with an expatriate oil worker.
One woman, who prefers not to be named, says: “I do not see myself as a prostitute. I have one boyfriend who comes to town to work. And because he is a European, a lot of people wrongfully assume that I am a prostitute. But we just love each other. He decided to get me a place so we can be together whenever he is in town. It’s just like when any other woman falls in love with a man. But now I have been tagged by some neighbors and that’s bad.”
Awulae Attibrukusu, President of the Western Region House of Chiefs says: “We have noticed a sudden increase in prostitution in the area and we have been concerned about how we can deal with the situation.”
As a part of the attempt to stem the tide, the region’s Association of Queen Mothers has been tasked to find ways of educating the women on the issue as one way to bring down prostitution.
Attibrukusu, who is also the Omanhene of Lower Discove, says that in the Takoradi area, the regional education office is working hard to engage parents and other stakeholders in how to influence the younger generation. “We have even considered placing some kind of curfew on young people as one way of keeping them away from the nightclubs.”
Chicken or the egg
Streetwalking is on a visible increase. Some are locals, others are Ghanaians from other regions and those from other neighboring countries. “But these are just some of the things you find with areas where oil is produced. It is not unique with Takoradi,” says Ato Aidoo (no relation to James above), an international petroleum engineer.
A woman who gives her name as Anita Wood wonders: “Why do people want to blame us and not the men? I am just standing on a street corner. If a man does not pick me up, I do end up in his hotel.”
Ato Aidoo, who has worked in several countries including Algeria and Kazakhstan, says: “Even in countries with Islamic influences where you do not usually expect these things, it exists. It is something that has come to be associated with oil production centers. There are always women who follow the oilmen.”