chapter  11
12 Pages

Prostitution: From "Free" Women to Women with AIDs

ByCatherine Coquery-Vidrovitch

The particular nature or prostitution in Africa today derives to some degree from traditional social practices. In Nairobi, prostitution appeared in the very beginning of the century in the railroad work camps. "Free women" appeared in Nairobi sooner than elsewhere but were far from the exception during the colonial era. Their form of prostitution was fairly characteristic of the Islamic areas' strongly hierarchized societies, both in the east among the Swahili and in the west among the Hausa. Around 1990, at least 80 percent of Nairobi prostitutes were sero-positive for AIDS. "Free women" are less and less free as prostitution grows in today's cities, mostly controlled by women such as the mamies of Ghana or the matrones of Abidjan. The semiprostitution is growing in the city, especially among the middle classes, whereas full-time prostitutes tend to come from the villages.