Nigerian popstar and architect Adokiye startled fans this week when, according to Vanguard, she claimed to be willing to exchange her own virginity for the release of over 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. The same group is also suspected of carrying out a further spate of abductions of at least 60 more women this week, two months after the first kidnapping brought international condemnation for the extremist group.
"I am older and more experienced," she told the paper. "Even if ten to 12 men have to take me every night, I don’t care. Just release these girls and let them go back to their parents.”
While many have taken to Twitter to praise her bravery, or implore her to withdraw the self-sacrificial offer, others have criticised it as an attention-seeking media stunt - and, inevitably, some have used the opportunity to question the truth of whether she was really still a virgin:
That awkward moment shekau discovers that @Adokiye is not a virgin after the chibok exchange
— Solomon Abey HOWMON (@howmon) June 21, 2014
Adokiye may well be a rising celebrity in Nigeria, but she is also a UN ambassador for peace with her own charity - called #ADOCHANGE - which works with international NGOs on health and education projects. Speaking to the NS via email, Adokiye said: “[It is] for the less privileged children, the motherless babies. Kids who can't speak for themselves. Its mission is to stand for them and to make them live right.”
However, her claim that she would swap her virginity for the safety of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram appeared both drastic and insincere for a good reason - in March, she made the same offer to anyone who would buy her mother a private jet. When asked about this, she claims it was a "joke", that she "only used it as a figure of speech to show how much I loved my mum and would give up anything for her".
"My offer to Boko Haram isn’t a joke,” she writes, and she confirmed that she stands by her words:
With the help of my government, I will go to the forest and plead for the release of those girls. If Boko Haram were to contact me that would be scary and great but they should only do so if they are ready to release the kidnapped girls and take up my offer.”
Whether act of extreme empathy or publicity stunt, it highlights the sensitive issues that cloud the social status of female virginity. When asked if she thought her offer confirmed virginity as an exchangeable commodity, Adokiye responded:
As long as I am not offering it up for financial gains then it’s no problem. The virginity would have to go sometime, so if I can use it to save those kidnapped girls that would be great.”
Despite the flurry of news interest in the initial kidnappings in March - including a social media hashtag campaign that even Michelle Obama got involved with - Adokiye has been left frustrated and appalled by the way the news cycle has moved on. “The sudden silence of the media hype to get those girls freed is really scary and frustrating," she writes. "If the exchange of my virginity for the freedom of the girls turns out a success, then I do not see any problems at all." Since making her offer she has been tweeting at her critics, demanding they suggest something better if they're so appalled by her proposal.
Regardless, Boko Haram continue to terrorise the Nigerian state of Borno, whose inhabitants live in fear of further abductions. According to the UN, Boko Haram has forced approximately 650,000 people to flee from their homes.