Aug 5, 2011 – On a partly cloudy day, visitors from Abidjan flood into the Grand-Bassam beach (43 km from the capital) to relax and enjoy some fresh air from the sea breeze.
On this lively beach, the loud calls of coconut sellers are almost mixed with the sound of waves crashing against the shore, in a symphony of noise.
Further away, beach attendants and swimmers recline in the shade of coconut trees all around the beach. Amongst them, many workers including European expatriates are enticed by young girls also known as the “mobile masseuses”; young girls aged between 14 and 28, with dreamy bodies and seductive voices.
Tariffs and services
While many see the beach as an ideal leisure destination, for the mobile masseuses it is a workplace; a place where they offer their services.
With a shoulder bag packed with lotions and creams and a towel around their necks, ‘the masseuses’ approach their clients with a bright smile, usually people in search of relaxation, mostly Europeans.
For a 2000 CFA francs note (about 3.04 euros), they would shave, treat and massage their clients. Sometimes, for an additional banknote and at the client’s request, they would ‘go further’.
“Sir, can I massage you? You won’t regret it. You will be coming back for more. I have a touch that will take away all your stress. Try it! You will feel much better afterwards. It is quality massage”. Those are the words Sonia Toh, in her early 20s, uses to approach potential clients. Sonia has been a mobile masseuse for nearly four years.
Between two massages Sonia agreed to reveal the secrets of this discreet profession.
“The speech alone is often not enough entice to clients, we have to be attractive. The dress and the enticing postures play a big part in this game of seduction,” admits Sonia, while adopting a lascivious posture. The slit on her purple loincloth shows her thighs. “Few people can resist that!” says Sonia proudly.
Massage minus or massage plus
There is the “massage minus” and the “massage plus”. The massage minus is limited to plain massage where the client is simply massaged. As for the “massage plus”, it can go beyond the simple massage, namely having sexual intercourse with the client. But Sonia insists on being from those who only offer “massage minus”.
Joseph Aman goes to the Bassam beach every weekend, more for the massage than for the fresh air. “The massage has become an addiction. Those girls have enchanting fingers!” says Joseph, who swears to have never received a “massage plus”.
The “massage plus” is not done in the open, but rather in the bungalows all around the beach. And the beneficiaries are not only the masseuses and their clients. “The masseuses and their clients rent our bungalows for one or two hours for their activities. We do benefit sometimes,” admits the manager of a hotel complex.
Lack of regulations
Aristide Yebouah, President of TAS-CI, an NGO against sexual tourism and paedophilia, makes an alarming observation:
“Mobile massage is a disguised type of prostitution and a potential tool for the propagation of HIV/AIDS. Our attempt to record the masseuses and sensitise them on the risks of HIV/AIDS was hampered by their refusal to admit that they were involved in another type of prostitution. What’s worse is that this activity often employs under aged girls. Something must be done and fast!”
By RNW Africa Desk – Selay Marius Kouassi, Abidjan