Secrets of prostitution in an Islamic Kingdom

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Results of a January 2008 research involving 500 prostitutes have just been released in Morocco. Under-age sex, family pressure, high educational background… this study breaks preconceived ideas on prostitution while bringing the real state of affairs to the fore in the rather conservative Cherifian Kingdom.

“Sex workers cannot be categorized as being homogenous”, according to the organizers of the research, OPALS – Organisation Panafricaine de Lutte Contre le SIDA-OPALS / Pan-African Organisation for the Control of HIV/AIDS. Undertaken in January with the involvement of 500 Moroccan prostitutes from seven towns ; Azrou, Khénifra, Béni Mellal, Meknès, Fès, Agadir and Rabat, this study brings a very hushed Moroccan phenomenon to light. While some aspects of the study were foreseeable, most of it was sad and shocking.

The very first reason behind women taking up this profession is due to poverty, followed by the weight of illiteracy, which is connected to social and professional exclusion. 31.5 per cent of those interrogated have never had any formal education while a whooping 21.1 per cent have attained tertiary level education. Explanation? The long wait for a first employment among young graduates seems to be the most recurrent reason. This comes against a backdrop of the preconceived idea that prostitution is an illiterate’s profession.

13 % of the sex workers are “virgins”

Another surprise was unearthed when 13 per cent of the prostitutes interrogated were found to be single and still virgin, thus with unbroken hymen. This highlights the sacrosanct problem of the quest for virgin brides, a driving force behind some types of sexual practices adopted by the sex workers to keep their hymen intact.

The foundations of the Moroccan society is once again shaken at its very core following the knowledge that almost 60 per cent of the women had their first paid sex between the ages of 9 and 15. One of the women interviewed, in fact, confessed to have had her first paid sex at age 9. The next study revealed that 32.6 per cent of the women have voluntarily or involuntarily had sex between the ages of 6 and 15.

The unlikely probability that a child of 6 years gives her consent, in cases like these, directly pinpoints the problem of paedophilia as well as sexual violence against young girls in a country where sexuality is still a taboo subject. Under-age and forced marriages are still rampant.

The family status of the Moroccan prostitutes are quite revealing, in that, 39.5 per cent of them are divorced. Quite apart from the economic problems divorced women face, finding a husband is another big social problem. Most divorced women are accused of being the cause of their own divorce and shunned by their families or close friends.

4 per cent of the sex workers were married. Although very low, this particular result is highly resonant. These married women usually work in secret to make ends meet for their families, in cases where the husband is away or too poor to provide. Some women also admitted to succumbing to pressures from their husbands or families into prostitution.

Bareback sex

The research group also touched on the exposure of the women to the risks of HIV/AIDS. Although the levels of HIV/AIDS in Morocco are quite low, cases of infection among prostitutes is as high as 2.59 per cent against a very low national prevalence of 1 per cent. The chief cause of this is not only due to lack of educational campaigns but also the lackadaisical attitude prostitutes and their clients, have adopted towards the use condoms. It was noted that 43.5 per cent of prostitutes do not use condoms. The reasons are many; cost of condoms, difficulty to find condoms, lack of information on risk behaviours, lack of information on HIV/AIDS and the fear of getting arrested by the police. A condom found in a girl’s bag, during police a raid, is sufficient proof that the person is a prostitute.

Prostitution  Alerted on the subject of prostitution among Africans, a growing trend in Europe and Africa, by various groups, Afrik decided to react. The following articles highlight not only testimonies on female prostitution but also child and male prostitution.
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