”They came into the club and forced me outside into a car where some other girls were sitting inside,”
As prostitution seems to be on the increase in Monrovia and elsewhere in the country, the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Gender and Development has embarked on searching for suspected prostitutes at entertainment centers in the city and its environs for rehabilitation.
But some of the suspected prostitutes have claimed that those spearheading the program are “prostituting the prostitutes for mere selfish financial gains and not for true and genuine rehabilitation purpose”.
20-year-old Lydia Bah from the Paynesville Community was picked up by Gender Ministry officials and its security services at a night club Saturday night. ”They came into the club and forced me outside into a car where some other girls were sitting inside,” Bah said.
Upon being arrested, Bah and 159 other girls all under age 18 were detained at the Young Women Christian Association (YWAC), and given new pairs of slippers, clothes, lappers and food to eat. After two days’ detention by UNMIL Police and Gender Ministry, they were then told the reasons why they were there. ” They told me that they want me to go to school, learn a trade, stop prostitution, and since I’ve been here we’ve been having group sessions everyday with UNMIL Police to change our ways,” Bah narrated.
Asked about the conditions of their housing and movement around the building, Bah said all the girls sleep in one room on the floor, while during the day they just sit around the compound with police supervision and nowhere to go.
Many of the girls are released when their families arrive, who identify them as relatives. Some as young as 11 years old have also been released. Asked if her life will change for the better upon her release, Bah indicated: “I’ll still go to clubs, but this time I won’t get caught in one”.
Each girl is asked to report for group session every day after their release to find a solution in keeping the young girls out of the life of prostitution and drugs.
Meanwhile, the Communication Consultant at the Ministry of Gender and Development, Smith Toby, said the exercise came as a result of the Task Force set up by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf under the nomenclature-Save Our Future(SOF), intended not to only eradicate prostitutes but also young people involved in using drugs and indecent dress code , mostly those between the ages of 14-23 who are persistently found at entertainment centers in the city and other places where men gather to socialize at nights .
Mr. Toby disclosed that the government is funding the program, emphasizing that there are plans to first start with four hot spots noting, “in fact, the Task Force is meeting right now to tackle places like Ganta and other places where sex trade is involved”.
According to him, the program has been ongoing for one week and about 104 girls have been removed from the streets as the program will run for three months with intense group sessions and counseling.
Mr. Toby said many of the girls have been allowed to leave because their ages cannot meet up with the requirements of the program.
Asked if the program will work and what is his own personal view on the exercise, he noted: “Our hope is to do more than what we have already started with. The President takes great interest in getting these girls off the streets to be rehabilitated and be able to fit into society. The process is gradual with the support of the Women and Children Division of the Liberia National police, Red Cross, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health and also TINK Liberia. Let these girls understand the terms are good for their own good. It allows them to stop allowing their bodies to be abused and know that their bodies are not for business or sale and that what the government intends to do for them will better their lives and the lives of their children”.