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Between Culture and Poverty: The Queen Mother Phenomenon and the Edo International Sex Trade

Oluwakemi A. Adesina


The international sex trade now has crucial national and global significance. This recourse to a more sophisticated trans-national sex trade in Africa’s most populous nation has been increasingly ascribed to the Edo people of southern Nigeria because Edo State, populated by the Bini and its sub-groups, became the hub of international sex trade in Nigeria. This trade, which began in the mid-1980s, involved the trafficking of young girls across international borders to serve as foreign exchange-earning sex workers in different countries. In consequence, strategies adopted by Mrs. Eki Igbinedion—First Lady of Edo State—and other Non-Governmental organizations devised strategies to combat the trend, including the use of Queen Mother Idia, a historical symbol of women’s power and dignity to persuade international sex workers to abandon the trade. This paper argues that sex work became seen as a way out of the poverty and unemployment that permeates Nigeria—a country that is rife with an army of beggars, and school leavers at all levels that have not been gainfully employed. Thus, recourse to the past for inspiration is inadequate to solve contemporary problems, particularly when the juxtaposed situations of the past and present have little or nothing in common. Womanhood as constructed in pre-colonial Edo has changed like every other phenomenon in the age of modernity, and Edo womanhood exists in a society that has redefined home and family within the exigencies of the basic needs and requirement of survival in a very harsh socio-economic environment.

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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