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Many things have been written about prostitution; it’s growing, it’s getting out of control and it’s tarnishing the country’s image etc…
According to some statistics, the sex industry is the third most profitable business in the world. The data in terms of profitability puts prostitution third after drugs and defense. Businesses such as oil, generically produced items, banking and pharmaceuticals all come after prostitution.
The prostitution market globally is worth USD 108 billion. Data shows that a single sex worker can earn her pimp up to USD 250,000 per year, but of course this data is putting into consideration the industry in not just poor countries but rich ones as well.
Prostitution in many countries, especially poor ones, goes hand in hand with human trafficking, a 32 billion USD business on its own. Every year a staggering four million people disappear, they are either sold into forced labor or prostitution.
The sex industry doesn’t just refer to good old prostitutes standing around on streets and in bars and getting paid for sex. The industry includes businesses which either directly or indirectly provide sex-related products and services or adult entertainment.
The industry includes activities involving direct provision of sex-related services, such as prostitution, and sex-related pastimes,  pornography, sex-oriented men’s magazines, sex movies and toys. Sex channels for television and pre-paid sex movies for on demand, are part of the sex industry, as are adult movie theaters, sex shops, and strip clubs. All this contributes to the 108 billion USD I was talking about earlier.
In Ethiopia, there isn’t really a well established sex industry. Sure, we have seen the flourishing of strip clubs and happy ending parlors, but usually sex workers are on the streets or in bars. We have not yet been introduced to the other services like that of in other countries where the industry has advanced.
So how big is this industry in Ethiopia? I recently heard that there are over 150,000 prostitutes in Addis Ababa alone. Some argue that the number must be wrong as it is too big but, research backs up the number.
Another piece of data shows that on average, prostitutes make 3,000 to 13,000 birr per month. Putting that figure into consideration, some suggest that the prostitution market is driven by 3 billion Birr every year.
Three billion is a big number, and it will get bigger and bigger once those in the business start providing new kinds of services.
According to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) study, a large number of women and children suffer from different types of inhuman abuses and exploitations as a result of trafficking within Ethiopia. The study states that trafficking women and children from rural to urban areas is prevalent and a steadily increasing practice in the country.
Unfortunately, reliable and comprehensive data on the emergence and development of trafficking in women and children as well as the number of women and children who have fallen victim to trafficking in the country are not available or easily accessible.
When sex becomes an industry that moves a market that is bigger than most of the country’s exports in basically all sectors, it might be a bit of a concern. It is a concern as it reflects on the abuse of women and children who are forced and trafficked to become modern day slaves.
We need to be able to look beyond the line of work, the industry and the money. The Ethiopian government needs to look behind the closed doors and expose the distractive impact that human trafficking brings to a society.