Nov 13, 2008 News
In a slow spiral, starting from Georgetown and moving outward into both the East and West Coast Demerara communities, prostitution is fast becoming more commonplace, or at least more visible. Many rum shops, restaurants and beer gardens outside of Georgetown are now sporting ‘bar girls’ who bring beverages to customers, clean tables, and at a cost, can provide customers with additional ‘services’ in one of the rooms in the same building, a parked car or at a nearby hotel.
Prostitution seems to be becoming very commonplace, undoubtedly encouraged by the rising cost of living. The days when such an activity was secretly conducted seem long gone.
Nowadays, there are well known brothels and particular areas where persons can go to conduct their ‘business’.
There are very obvious signs of prostitution in and around Guyana, in places like Essequibo and Berbice, usually with the common knowledge and oftentimes in the plain view of the police and law enforcement authorities.
There have been reports of instances where police ranks have picked up these prostitutes and have locked them up over the weekend.
As in almost every other city in the world, there is a street in Guyana’s capital city where flesh is rented, leased, hired and ultimately used – Sheriff Street. It is not uncommon to see police officers passing prostitutes on this street, turning a blind eye and leaving them to go about their business.
A police source explained that while prostitution is in fact illegal, the reason the police do not pursue it is because it would be exceedingly difficult to process through the courts. There would almost always, said the police source, be a lack of evidence or witnesses, as the man who was paying for the sexual services would not come forward.
Similarly, the prostitute would also not willingly come forward to give testimony, as what she is doing is illegal.
Due to this, it is difficult to charge persons for prostitution, or indulging in it. In other countries, police often go undercover to find and charge women with prostitution, but due to the lack of human and financial resources, this is not often done in Guyana.
In the past, the Ministry of Human Services conducted raids on places suspected of indulging in this type of human trafficking, but little has been seen in terms of prosecuting the leaders of these gangs.
As is usually the case with prostitution, most of the girls plying this trade in Guyana, who spoke with this newspaper, have said that they have been abused by some of their customers.
Most of them come from the hinterland of Guyana, and have oftentimes been lured into Georgetown or its surrounding areas by promises of good and well paying jobs.
These girls oftentimes, or so they have said, do not like their line of work. However, with the rising cost of living coupled with their (prostitutes) often limited formal education, obtaining a legitimate source of income that pays a similar sum, does not always prove to be an easy task.
What is often disregarded by the patrons and owners of these establishments, and of people on the whole, is the devastating psychological effect which this line of work has on the girls. Due to poverty, and lack of opportunity, these women and girls become commodities on the street, to be rented, leased, haggled over and oftentimes battered.
Some of these girls have said that they are drug users. The ‘high’ they achieve from using illicit substances takes them away from the harsh realities of their day to day, or night to night, lives.
Personality and soul, individuality and character are worth nothing; shape, and size of their bodies – everything. They are debased again and again, by different persons, unmindful of the social cost to society or of the social disease many of them (prostitutes) have.
The majority of the women in this occupation, that this newspaper spoke with, said that it was the easiest way for them to make money, as most of them have children to support, bills to pay and no formal education.
Added to this, many of the girls, especially outside of Georgetown, appear to be quite young, usually between the ages of 16 and 22. In some of the more widely known ‘hot spots’ in Georgetown and along Sheriff Street, the prostitute can be as old as 50.
In addition to the declining state of morality within society, which can be observed by the evident number of these girls, is the shocking revelation that many of these girls are so young, and are entering such a profession which will eventually rob them of any kind of sexual identity or personification.
“I is 17,” she said, adding “there used to be some other girls here, but they gone now.” Her roots apparently trace back to Lethem, where she reportedly still has family, who apparently encouraged her to go and make her fortune on the Coast. According to her, she still sends back whatever money she can afford as her contribution to her relatives.
According to a source within the Ministry of Human Services, these girls are convinced to come to the Coast by different ways. They are often wooed by men working in the interior and these men, under the pretext of love, convince the girls to accompany them to Georgetown. Once they are in town, the girls are ‘given’ to these restaurants cum brothels.
The girls, almost always, do not have any money with which to go back to the hinterland, and are thus forced to stay and work. Added to this, they do not know anyone save their ‘employers,’ and, due to this, cannot seek help.
It has also been reported that the girls are oftentimes too ashamed to tell their families, or anyone else, about the type of work they are engaged in. This usually cuts off all hope of assistance from home.
Cases also arise where poverty and large families cause these young girls to be simply sold, by family members, to persons plying the interior looking for girls to do this sort of work. Added to this is the fact that many of these girls are not familiar with the way of life in Georgetown, and they are often fooled into thinking that there is nothing wrong with the situation they find themselves in.
One such case was uncovered some time last year, where one of these girls was employed at a restaurant cum brothel on West Coast Demerara. At this establishment, she would work as a waitress from approximately 6:00 hours until close to 1:30 hours the next day.
Added to this, she would also ‘service’ clients of the restaurant.
On top of all of this, she was not paid for any of her work, but was provided with food and a place to stay. She apparently thought that it was alright that her work was going unpaid for, as she was being given a place to sleep and something to eat in return.
Despite all of this, when questioned, the song these girls often sing is almost always the same, ‘I came out (to Georgetown) to better myself, and improve our (their family’s) standard of living.’
According to reports, recent studies have demonstrated extremely high numbers of HIV prevalence among the women working in prostitution in Georgetown.
Estimates have said that approximately 45 percent of women in prostitution are infected with HIV. However, a definite figure is yet unknown. It is hard to gauge accurate figures, as many of the girls and women engaged in this profession are shadows, with no real names, ages or addresses that they can be traced back to.
One of the major problems involving prostitution is the spread of the HIV virus, and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
Added to this, these establishments and the girls working therein also significantly impact and damage their respective communities. A resident of Leonora, West Coast Demerara noticed that cases of domestic violence were on the increase, and this, she said, was partially to be blamed on the girls that entertain men at a local Chinese restaurant, cum rum shop.
Apparently, some of the men from the community (and some from outside the community) will consume alcohol at the rum shop, fool around with the girls there and then go home. Once home, reports have said, they proceed to beat their wives and children. It has been said that these men take to fooling with the girls at the rum shop because, ‘they are willing to do things that their (the men) wives would not do.’
Some sort of affirmative action, explained the same resident, needs to be taken by members of the community. If the community as a whole opposes it then it will have to stop. She added that assistance would need to be lent by members of the police force, but she highlighted that oftentimes, police ranks would also indulge in the services of these girls.
The key factor in preventing and solving Guyana’s prostitution lies in education, explained the source from the Ministry of Human Services. The source explained that if members of society, customers included, were not educated about the threats which prostitution poses, then it would never stop.
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