The government, the truth and 400 sex workers

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Let’s face it. 

Whether or not Prime Minister Tuilaepa would admit it, the truth is that there’s a big problem facing him. 

And that problem is called prostitution.

Now already 400 women are reported to be already involved in it, the indications are that the number is growing, and yes, there is no doubt it will continue to grow.

Now the pertinent question is: What was it that caused this problem.

Answer: Poverty and hardship caused by unemployment which in turn, had been caused by the government’s failure to provide the crucial employment that was – and still is - dearly needed.  

Which follows that as long as unemployment remains, Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s problem will continue to grow, and as it’s doing so along the way, it may very well overwhelm us all one of these days. 

The hard truth though is that even an idiot knows what this little problem is capable of. The question then is: Is Prime Minister Tuilaepa playing games with our minds, or is he just a plain nut?

We don’t know, and we truly don’t want, to think so. 

Still, the question is: Hadn’t he been the prime minister of Samoa non-stop for the last twenty-six years or so?  

Still, the idea that there are 400 women working as prostitutes in Samoa today is so disturbing, you just can’t help wondering what kind of man would allow his country to wallow in the mud this way?

And yet, it seems as if as far as Samoa’s prime minister is concerned, there is really nothing wrong with women – young and old – taking up the so-called oldest profession right here in God-fearing Samoa, in this day and age. 

None.  

As a matter of fact, it seems as if all he cared about then was the idea that only the oldest profession known to man, would not fail to incite the sort of public debate that he so dearly needed, at just that point in time.

And as it turned out that was precisely what happened. 

During Tuilaepa’s weekly media conference, he was asked by the Samoa Observer reporter, for a comment on the growing number of sex workers in the country.

Tuilaepa hesitated.

A little later, when he was asked for a comment on claims that poverty and hardship were responsible for the growing number of sex workers in Samoa, he laughed. 

A little later, he said: “If that is true then you shouldn’t find that in America, the wealthiest country in the world, and yet there are a lot of women like that in America.” 

He added: “That’s where it’s wrong. You can’t control this type of behavior.” 

He paused again, and a little later still, he was laughing, as he was saying: “I know the newspaper is trying hard.

 “It doesn’t matter how far off the issue is. They always try to pull it towards my doorstep. They blame me as the reason for everything.”

He paused again and then continued: “That’s why I hardly read their rubbish. I try to free my mind day after day, to avoid being dragged into issues.” 

He’s got a point there.

Still, what he needs to keep firmly in his mind is that as long as he is Samoa’s Prime Minster, he can neither try to evade nor run away, from those “issues.”  

After all, he – along with his team of hand-picked Lauia – are the ones who created those issues in the first place, which follows that they are also the ones who should solve them and then send them away, to wherever they rightly belong. 

About a week later, the chance to ask the Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr Leao Talalelei Tuitama, for a comment on Tuilaepa’s claims regarding Samoa’s 400 sex workers, showed up.

It did when Dr Leao’s own media conference came around.

Incidentally, those 400 sex workers had been identified by what had become known as the Multi-country Mapping and Behavioural study of 2016.

That study, according to the Ministry of Health, in their sixth annual report to UNAIDS, had verified that at the time, there were an estimated 400 female sex workers in Samoa.

The report said: “Most women are doing sex work for economic reasons,” and the “payment varies considerably from $50 to $200 tala.” 

Indeed, it went on to say: “These women have a wide range of clients, including local and foreign men, 58.3% had children, and the majority had no other employment.”

Later still at Tuitama Dr Leao’s own media conference, the Samoa Observer reporter approached him, and asked for an interview.

It was granted.

Asked if he agreed that the report in question was “rubbish”, as it had been so condemned by Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Dr Leao, replied: “You don’t want me to say that the Prime Minister was wrong. 

“You know, he is the leader of our country; if he says it’s rubbish, then it must be rubbish.”

Well then, if that is so, then why are our government, and indeed the Health Department, wasting their time and ours with these reports, if they’d already known they were “rubbish”?

We have no idea.

Still, all we know is that as the principal author of the report in question - Professor, Global Health School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Australia - has written: 

“As the lead author of the report on HIV and STI risk and vulnerability among key populations in Samoa, I would respectfully like to respond to the Honourable Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr Leao Talalelei Tuitama and the Honourable Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, by asking them to please read this report.”

It is available online at:

http://www.pacific.undp.org/content/pacific/en/home/library/DG/pacific-multicountry-mapping-behavioural-study-key-findings.html

© Samoa Observer 2016

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