Sex Work Flourishes in Post-Earthquake Haiti
Nov. 5, 2010Port-au-Prince—When Shirley leaves her tent in the steep hills of Canapé Vert, she lies to preserve herdignity. She works the late-night shift at restaurant nearby, she tells her 14-year-old son, slipping throughthe door. Some nights, she doesn’t return until 5 a.m.She takes a rickety tap-tap taxi over the spottily paved roads here, sometimes to wealthier Pétionville, othernights jumping out in the gritty working class neighborhood of Carrefour. Selling her last marketablecommodity—her body—she might receive $25 U.S. from a client. She might also get arrested or abused.Or stabbed. Since the quake, competition among prostitutes has gotten fiercer. On occasion, the mostvicious women wield razors to fend off the others.Shirley, 38, wears a sprig of a ponytail and has small bluish bags just beneath her eyes. She had thought sheleft sex work behind: Several years ago she met the executive director at ANAPFEH, a grassroots Haitiangroup working to help women engaged in transactional sex. Through the organization she acquired a loanof about $1,000 and enrolled in a week-long entrepreneurs’ course. Soon, she was traveling the long road tothe Dominican Republic, buying cases of inexpensive cosmetics, and then returning to Port-au-Prince topeddle her wares from salon to salon. She had a different look back then—more regal. She became a peeradvocate at the organization, mentoring others.