Tuesday, 5 November 2013

I used to sleep with five men daily - former sex worker

By PARIENCE AHIMBISIBWE | Monday, November 4  2013 at  11:56
This is one of the most harrowing tales of a 28-year-old former sex worker. At 15, Edith (not real name) hit the road after the death of her father in 1999, leaving five of them in the care of their stepmother in a rented house in Kisaasi, a Kampala suburb.
Her mother had earlier left her marital home after a disagreement with her father and to date, Edith does not know her whereabouts.
“My parents separated after a disagreement and dad married another woman. I do not know where my mother is.”
There was no money for Edith to continue with studies and she dropped out of school in Senior Two. The step-mother did not have a stable income to look after all of them. Each child had to find means of survival.
Left to fend for herself, the 15-year-old went to live with Jane, a friend. This friend was studying and renting a room near her school- because her home was far.
In the neighbourhood, there were girls who would go for karaoke everyday at Miami Bar and sometimes would go dancing at Club Silk in Kampala.
Because Edith needed money for upkeep, she started escorting them. It was from this that she was lured into sex for money.
One day, Jane took me along to the bar. She introduced to me a tall dark-skinned man. He reeked of whisky and told me order for a snack.”
“We did not talk much. After my snack, he suggested that we leave for a more private place since the music was deafening.”
Edith first excused herself to go and talk to Jane. “He is such a good man. He will even give you some money for our survival, just go Edith!” Jane said.
The man walked Edith to a small room. Suddenly, he undressed her. The warm guy had changed faces.
“He held me close. I could not scream because this was Jane’s “good” friend, I felt tense and rigid.”
I felt unbearable pain in my private parts. Thereafter he handed me a $8 asking me to vanish.” Edith got dizzy and walked with difficulty but thanks to Jane who seems to have been waiting, they took a boda boda home.
“Edith, sorry I did not tell you about the rates. But always charge as much as we can use for upkeep!” This opened Edith’s eyes to the world’s oldest profession.
Henceforth, I tagged along to make an extra buck.
Relocation and new team
According to her, because they were young sex workers, police threatened to close the bar. But the management decided to chase Edith and friends away.
This time they found a group of elderly women who promised to help them get better livelihood if they co-operated. Their work station was going to be Kisenyi slums in Kampala.
The “boss” as she constantly refers to her had a group of 12 girls.
We were a group of teenage girls working for a group of women involved in the vice. The women set targets that the girls had to make each night.
Each was expected to contribute $2 every night. In return, the Boss would pay rent for two rooms each going for Shs30,000 a month.
But first, how were they going to get this money? At 8pm every day, the team would head to work in Kisenyi. Here, the leader would identify a man for each girl.
The man would then lead the girl to a lodge. For every man you slept with, you would be paid $0.79 . But this was to be shared in half with the boss. The girls were expected to sleep with at least five men.
“This beat my understanding because I didn’t know how to look for a man. I was asked to escort the first man and was told that he would give me money. I realised later when we entered a room and asked me to undress,” Edith says.
When she tried to resist, she was warned that he would only pay after he had finished his work.
“So he used force. I cried endlessly. He later threw money at me and left. It was only Shs2,000! I didn’t know the place he had taken me to and it was at night. I had to find my way home,” Edith says.
However, she was to give $0.4 to the group leader. “You have to be high (to be a prostitute,)” she said flatly. “You don’t want to feel what they’re doing to you. Sometimes we would smoke some drugs which were given by our boss.”
“Crack was my medication,” she said. “I had to get high in order to have sex with a stranger.”
She later fell sick. Colleagues insisted that she gets back to work lest she would be thrown out of the house.
Because she had no option, Edith heeded. And for more than seven years, she slept with at least three men every night. “We always reported to our boss who had a notebook and would tally against each girl’s name. I slept with all categories of men. Clients ranged from those who were drunk, wheelbarrow pushers, the corporates (married and singles) who always dropped by the bar for a drink or two.

Worse still, it did not matter whether you were in your menstrual periods or sick. Work was compulsory.
“Our boss wanted us to have five men every night. I couldn’t handle. I went for three a night,” Edith disclosed.

If they failed to meet the targets, they would be physically abused. In some cases, they had to rob their clients, in cahoots with the women, to make up the difference. The victims, most of them businessmen and respectable members of society, do not report the crime for fear of being identified.
When she got pregnant last year, little did she know it was the beginning of a new journey. She did not know whose pregnancy it was, but she was determined to keep it. The house rules did not change even when she disclosed it to her friends.
“I did not know what to do or where to go. I wanted to stay home but did not have money for rent and upkeep. I continued with the trade even in that state,” Edith recalls.
But this was dangerous for Edith, especially that the clients were not aware of her condition. And at five months, she had a miscarriage.
“It was 3am; I had just arrived home from the field. My housemates had not come back. I felt like I had cramps in my abdomen. I wanted to ease myself. A few minutes later, I blacked out. On regaining my consciousness, I was on a hospital bed at Mulago National Referral Hospital,” she recollects.
For a month, Edith was in hospital with no attendant.
“My neighbours in hospital are the ones who gave me what to eat,” Edith says. They took care of her up to when she was discharged.
When she was discharged, she didn’t have where to go. She didn’t want to go back to her colleagues because they had abandoned her. An offer from one of the patients in hospital to go and live with her came in handy. My caretaker also paid my hospital bills. She has since tested HIV/Aids negative.
“Much as we seemed to make quick money, it was a painful process. I contracted some sexually transmitted diseases but somehow moved on. Most clients never cared to have protected sex.”
Today, Edith, with the help of her caretaker has enrolled for a cosmetology course funded by African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN).
Challenges of former sex workers
Dr Wilberforce Kabweru of Naguru Hospital in Kampala, says, with Edith’s experience, she is likely to have relationship challenges. She has been exposed to viral warts, HIV, cancer of the cervix and secondary infertility and may require a lot of resources for rehabilitation.
“In case she gets in a relationship, she may lose emotional touch, and is prone to sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and may develop weak muscles causing recurrent miscarriages. If she has not been infected with HIV, then, she should thank her God,” Dr Kabweru said.
But in an interview with John Agaba, ANPPCAN spokesperson indicates how difficult it is to rehabilitate a prostitute who especially joined willingly.
For instance, he said about 84 prostitutes were recruited in January with the help of local chairpersons to get salon skills in Kawempe but three months later, more than a half had dropped out before completing the one-year training.
At this rate, they were forced to recruit again, bringing Edith, a former sex worker on board.
“Majority of prostitutes love money. Many will ask you if you will be able to pay them $40 they make a night if they left the trade. Those who went in prostitution willingly are less likely to leave the business while those who joined the business because of circumstances are more likely to desert it again,” Mr Agaba explained.