David Martin Aliker
Next Broadcasting Services(NBS) released a documentary titled, Haunted by the Past produced by Northern Bureau Chief Benson Ongom investigating child prostitution at Buganda Pub in Gulu.
Why is Buganda Pub in Gulu, Northern Uganda and not in Buganda, Central Uganda?
In Africa, names bear meaning and identities of places and people.
Buganda Pub is found at the heart of Gulu town and is believed to derive its name from the high influx of internal economic immigrants within Uganda whose preference bears identity with Buganda.
Previously, the business was known as Opit Pub; part of a business empire realizing its name from the village of origin of its proprietor.
As a result of Gulu’s urbanization, Luganda speaking internal immigrants from majorly Buganda(Central Uganda) found a home and Luganda became a reliable business language in this pub.
This narrative is collaborated by Elder Sheikh Musa Khalil of Gulu mosque in his testimony to NBS’s investigative documentary when he refers to it as coordinated movement of child prostitutes from neighboring districts.
Unconfirmed narratives in town is that the majorly visiting Luganda speaking bar tenders are periodically reshuffled as incentive to its patrons as a point of contact with patrons who invest in commercial after sales sex.
Similarly, the rooms in its guests wings are hired in months and sub-rented hourly or on a daily basis for commercial sex purpose by regular patrons to much poorer clients-in this case child prostitutes for quick sex or on a good day, whole night for a slightly higher fee as confirmed in the NBS documentary.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is one of the most hidden, complex and corrosive Worst Forms of Child Labour, identified to be persistent in Uganda.
The International Labor Organisation (ILO) defines child prostitution as the use of girls and boys in sexual activities, remunerated in cash or in kind. It [child prostitution] is among the numerous acts of commercial sexual exploitation of children .According to ILO there are 7,000 to 12,000 children involved in prostitution in Uganda.
This article therefore explores the economics of child prostitutes in Gulu borrowing from different reports from different media agencies and publicly known experiences in Gulu.
According to a research titled ‘A study of community-based child protection mechanisms in a fishing community in central Uganda conducted by Africhild, an African research centre on children affairs at Makerere University in 2015, revealed that although there are older prostitutes, many clients prefer young girls because they charge less. Whereas an adult may charge Shs8,000, a child’s ‘service’ is as low as Shs1,000,” the report reads in part. These findings seem familiar with experiences of child prostitutes in Gulu.
This confirms details in the documentary as entrance fee is only Shs.2000 and the child prostitutes in the documentary asked for only Shs.10,000 for quick sex and 25,000 for the whole night.
The Role of Pimps
The Pimps are normally referred to as Madam or Mum and in other instances referred to as Aunties who work in collaboration with bar and lodge owners.
These Pimps provide shelter, food and a little money for personal care so that the girls are clean and smart enough to gain the attention of men. Their fares are all realized from their night fees with older men.
At dusk, the sex clients congregate in their home, or in a nearby bar. The pimp carefully makes it known that she has young girls for sexual hire, the rate strictly is determined by the length of time the customer will spend with the girl.
One night could bring in as much as sh5,000-sh10,000. The girls are carefully coached to say they are aged 15 or older.
It is common for a girl to spend the night with three or four different men, some of them students from nearby secondary schools, while others are men in transit to southern Sudan or nearby business districts who need quick sexual fix with girls half their age. A girl is lucky if she receives Shs.5000 or Shs.10,000 for a night of hard work.
A report compiled by Migyera Youths Development Center, a community based organization showed that about 100 children aged between 13-17 years were involved in commercial sex.
The commercial sex workers target commercial truck drivers plying the Kampala-Gulu and Juba routes.
Migyera is a fast growing town council and popular stopover for commercial truck drivers found along the Kampala – Gulu highway and a hub for commercial sex workers.
Most of the commercial sex takes place in lodges, while a few do it in open hideouts or in trucks.
In this case, Gulu as a regional business hub is a transit route to Kampala, Southern Sudan through Elegu border points, Congo through Arua border points and Moroto and Kotido Districts.
In the event that the child prostitutes are offering escort services out of town, the rates are slightly much higher from 50,000 to 100,000.
The increased rates are to take care of unforeseen situations like a bad client may turn to be a source of insecurity.
This extra money will meet any cost required at police ranging from bail applications which mandatorily are to be free but seem to require unaccounted cost attached to it and the possibility of hiring legal services if required for their safety.
One can have more than 10 girls under her management.
Although government through the Ministry of Gender developed the National Action Plan on elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Uganda, which forbids involvement of children in commercial sex exploitation, the vice is still rampant.
There is now a need to track progress by following up on the issues of CSEC at grassroots and policy levels and to provide accountability in the public sector as well as private initiatives to the numerous causes, factors and intervention since the earlier studies.
Civil Society have to put up programs to cater for the increasing number of child prostitutes.This involves blocking child trafficking, sensitizing the community of dangers in prostitution and helping disburse the child prostitutes to rehabilitation centres.
Community-based child protection mechanisms (CBCPMs) are fast becoming important responses in addressing child protection concerns. Components of CBCPMs include people, groups and networks that exist in the communities.
Conclusively, Buganda Pub gives meaning to the unique identities of Gulu’s urban internal migration economic migrants who are normally in the informal sector and whose lifestyles contradicts the values of native inhabitants of Gulu.
The author is a Blogger and Opinion Leader based in Gulu. Email: [email protected]