KBF said … your stepchild is not your child

“Doomu jiitle du doom”

**ATTENTION ALL PARENTS**

Friends. Social media. Television. Travel. iPhones. Androids. Google. Spotify. Apple Music. Hulu. HBO. Netflix. Disney. School. Prom. Homecoming. Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Detention. Starbucks.

That looks like a list of random but popular things that look familiar to all of us probably. But all of those things have something in common. They all play a role in raising kids today. You know the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child?” Well, Kocc Barma had his own saying and it went something like this – “Doomu jiitle du doom,”or in English, your stepchild is not your child. I’d like to take it one step further and inform you that even your child is not your child. What do I mean by that? Follow along.

We live in a world today where your precious little girl or your handsome little boy is being raised just as much outside of the home, if not more, than inside the home with you. The factors surrounding kids today are abundant and there’s no escaping the reality that the lessons you teach your kids today will surely be diluted by what he/she is taught out there. Yeah, out there. Out there is endless opportunity and possibility of all things. You will not be able to control everything your child comes in contact with and you certainly will not be able to completely influence how your child reacts to it.

I always have to bring it back to Senegalese society and I must say before I delve deeper into that analysis that the tendency to want to control everything isn’t a “Senegalese parent thing.” It’s all parents. The reason I will speak on Senegalese parents specifically is because that’s what I know. What I know is that Senegalese parents have this illusion of having everything under control and having definitive authority [see my previous post about Kocc Barma’s saying about elders]. It’s this illusion that they always know best and when they tell their children to jump, they’ll respond with “how high?”

I hate to break it to you but the world doesn’t function like that [anymore]. It’s important, now more than ever, to be a responsible, aware, realistic, and accountable parent. It’s imperative to become humble and accept that Kocc Barma may have been right when he said your stepchild isn’t your child and neither is your own child. In this day and age, your child is the world’s child and you better believe the world will have something to say about who your child becomes.

Who your child becomes – a great segue into the topic I want to talk about today: prostitution. The transition may not have been as smooth as I put on but it’s partly because there’s really no easy way to bring this up with African societies and the other part is because I think I’ve softened the crowd enough with my intro up top. Let’s get to it.

Again, I’m going to talk about Senegal because that’s what I know.

Prostitution is legal in Senegal. I’ll be honest that I didn’t explicitly know that. I was implicitly aware but I never gave it a second thought because honestly even though it’s legal, it’s so morally frowned upon that my subconscious decided to mute it. But today, we’re not going to be quiet about it; we’re going to confront it head on.

Prostitution is not only legal, its regulated. I, for one, think this is a positive thing. I don’t condone prostitution in the least bit. But I know that not condoning it, be it me or any one of the 16 million inhabitants of Senegal, isn’t going to make it go away. People will sell their bodies for sex irrespective of if it’s legal or not. So why not take a stance like Senegal did and put regulations around it? The Economist wrote a short article in April 2018 calling Senegal’s approach “innovative.” At first, I raised an eyebrow like “hmmm, where are they going with this?” But then I read on and learned that Senegal’s approach led to a drop in the HIV prevalence rate. Specifically, “between 2002 and 2016, the prevalence of HIV among sex workers fell by 21 percentage points to an impressive 7%.” Violence against women is a problem in Senegal (and worldwide). When this occupation is illegal, it puts sex workers at a higher risk for being victims of violence/discrimination. This is generally in the form of exploitation by corrupt officials (I’m talking about the corrupt police officers who take advantage of under-the-cover sex workers and expect “free services)!

Photo from The Economist article.

I’d like to say that Senegal is not the only Sub-Saharan country that has legalized prostitution but it is the only country to regulate it! You may be asking why I keep insisting on that. Let me tell you why. By regulating this occupation, sex workers are able to obtain an “identification card.” With this identification card, sex workers can:

  • Have monthly check-ups at one of the centers managed by social workers and nurses
  • Have access to free condoms (including education sessions on proper condom use)
  • Take advantage of the mandatory annual HIV screenings
  • Take advantage of mandatory bi-annual blood tests for syphilis
  • Take advantage of annual tests to assess HIV serologic status

In the midst of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s, Senegal took a stance on vulnerable populations, including and especially sex workers. The steps this small country took bold steps to get ahead of the epidemic and those efforts paid off. Today, those efforts have contributed “to low HIV prevalence rate of 0.4%.” For context, “the average in Sub-Saharan Africa is 4.3%. In Washington, DC the rate is 1.9%.” Go Senegal!

Now, I’ve bombarded you all with facts and statistics. Let’s get back to the social aspect of this whole thing. In no way, shape, or form will prostitution ever be seen in a positive light and that’s not just for Senegal (or anywhere in the world really). It’s been seen as a disgraceful and lowly occupation for generations and generations and that’s not going to change. But at some point, we have to stop jumping to conclusions about things such as this legislation (which I’ve talked enough about for now) and the humans being the personas of “sex worker.” Let’s take a moment to meet some of these ladies (I do not personally know them. I am summarizing a few from the 2004 ResearchGate article linked below – for more women’s stories, check out the full article).

Never has a child been asked what they want to be when they grow up and they said “a prostitute.” The journey to becoming a prostitute is a long and painful one, usually catalyzed by a feeling a destitution after a series of events. Whether it is losing one’s job, being sex-trafficked, losing all family members, and/or feeling hopeless, it isn’t an easy decision one takes. Once in the milieu, it can be very hard to get out. So let’s not be so quick to point fingers or pass judgment. I could jump into the topic of “modern prostitution” with young girls and men who have sugar daddies and sugar mama, respectively but I will save that for my podcast ;).

Kocc Barma was talking about step-children when he said doomu jiitle du doom. I for one say this is a fact for all children, biological or otherwise. In today’s world, blood relations is just one of many ways a child can be linked to something or someone. There are so many factors impacting how a child is brought up and who/what they eventually become. Let’s be vigilant and mindful of these things. Because prostitution is just one example. But can you imagine if this article was about depression in Senegalese society (which could very well be relevant when talking about reasons why one might go into the prostitution business). I’ll stop here so I won’t digress but I think you get the point…

Sources

Disclaimers

  • I do not talk about male prostitutes in this article. But they exist.
  • I do not condone prostitution as a viable solution to life’s unfortunate series of events.
  • I look on the bright side of things…
  • This is a reminder that SENEGAL is not operating on Sharia, despite being a majority Muslim country. Laws are not on the grounds of the Quran or the Bible.

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