‘Bad Black of all people? We have sunk so low….’ claimed the text message on the latest story of Shanitah Namuyimba, a.k.a Bad Black.
Bad Black is a self-proclaimed sex worker who in July 2012 was sentenced to four years in jail for swindling Shs11 billion from Daveshan Compan, her British boyfriend’s company.
To the consternation of many she was allegedly appointed a brand ambassador of a university.
So went the concerned, ‘a person of such character should not be anywhere near a brand. It reflects badly especially on one representing an institution that among others is supposed to impart morals to the learning minds in search of knowledge.’
Bad Black has two problems about her. First, she is very honest and transparent about herself. She grants sexual pleasure in exchange for money. The second is that she was caught stealing and even got punished for it.
Otherwise, she is not different from many people in present day Uganda in as far as the two vices; selling (and buying) sex for survival, plus stealing from others is concerned.
One thing about stealing, also called corruption, is that it needs no further introduction or elucidation. In fact, it is a silently though widely held view by many in the government sphere that stealing public funds is okay especially if the thief ploughs back the money, and invests in the economy creating opportunities for others.
What most people are still shy about is the lucrative habit of selling sex in are form or the other. A prostitute or in the more acceptable liberal term -sex worker, is regarded as one of the lowest forms of life in the Ugandan society yet currently there is a very vibrant though subtle sex industry booming in the country.
It is concealed in plain sight and has been boosted by the detrimental effects Covid-19 has had on the economy and general wellbeing of many.
The peddler of flesh has left the streets where the police has proved to be a nuisance many times and has now gone high-tech.
The operation is now negotiated on the social media in-boxes initiated by salacious photos and comments.
If you scan social media pages almost 70 per cent of the conversations are about sex and money.
The broke or stingy men who do not want to part with money yet they want ‘free things’ and the girls who want to eat men’s money ‘for nothing,’ is where the conversation rotates.
Granting sexual favours for money or some gain is as old as time. Some people claim that it got out of the closet when women became more empowered and felt that they had a right over what they wanted to do with their own bodies like is the case with most western countries.
In Uganda, it became more pronounced in the late 80s starting with girls in higher institutions of learning. ‘Benching’ by the ‘sugar daddy,’ a moneyed man almost the age of the father of their target, who parked his second hand Japanese car in the parking lot nicknamed the airport, entered into the lore of survival in Uganda’s then only university, Makerere.
Many students learnt the habit of dating age mates for fun in the discos and an older man to help cater for their livelihood. It is also the time that HIV/Aids spread like a wildfire.
It is the period that the country started on the trip of structural and sectoral adjustments as dictated by the Bretton Woods institutions.
Many parents lost jobs, social services such as health and education had to be paid for putting economic pressure on the individual to survive.
The parent who hitherto stayed in a subsidised house, accessed free medicare, was transported in a government or company car and was granted free university education now had to fork out money they did not earn.
A parent (I write with his permission) told me that he has let his daughter down and he feels ashamed. He barely manages to pay tuition. Yet she has one of the latest smart phones on the market. She upgraded from the low budget hostel he had rented her in one of the slummy areas around the university to a posh one.
She has expensive artificial hair and her makeup and nails are done in posh salons. The student does not work and they both know it is not Mother Teresa providing.
The story even gets better when many finish school. Without jobs of any kind they may be found in high end apartments where those who can afford visit to cool off and have ‘sexual healing.’
The same applies to some young males who are at the disposal of both moneyed older women (and yes men,) for sexual gratification.
Currently, there are a lot of adverts making rounds about massage parlours where a wide range of sexual services are offered.
On several occasions nude photos of especially of young girls leak on social media. In some instances, these girls send them to men to show them what to expect in return for their money.
When the men discover that despite the money they put into the venture for exclusive rights, they are just part of a train of other men seeking similar services, they put out the photos in revenge.
After one such leakage, one girl put on a brave face and said she thought the man was embarrassing her but it worked to her advantage as many men were now calling her.
You can bet they were not calling her for prayers of atonement.
Bad Black might be a shame, but she is not alone as many quietly identify with her. She can be an ambassador. For an ambassador represents the aspiration of like-minded people.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues