Bertha, aged in her 40s, is matter-of-fact about the role she plays in the young girls' lives as she negotiates the prices customers will pay for sex with them and dispenses condoms and 'safe sex' advice. I introduce the girls to the customers.
A Papua New Guinean sex worker meets with a client who has booked a room in the 'hotel' in Port Morseby where prostitution is still illegal.
Underage, invisible to health authorities and beaten for wanting to use a condom: the hidden shame of prostitution in papua new guinea, where two thirds of young women sell sex for money
While the exact of sex workers in PNG is not known, the United Nations has estimated that as many as two in three girls aged between 15 and 24 in Papua New Guinea have exchanged sex for money, food, shelter - or even payment school fees. Despite those extraordinary statistics, the government is apparently in denial. Prostitution, brothels and homosexuality are all illegal in PNG, and women and men who choose to sell sex do so at their own risk and outside the health, security and other controls that regulate sex industries in other countries.
They also face high levels of discrimination, stigma and hate crimes. It has left many of the countless s involved as paraiahs in their own society, vulnerable to abuse, violence and rampant diseases such as HIV infections.
It is late at night in Boroko, Port Moresby's once-thriving business district now fallen into disrepair, and Bertha points out working standing in the shadows around the new clubs and bars. Bertha, a prostitution energetic papua seemingly kindly woman in her 40s, is matter-of-fact about her role, and equally comfortable negotiating prices for girls with customers as she is dispensing condoms and 'safe sex' advice to her young stable of teenagers.
A USAID survey on this sector of the PNG community revealed that although many hide their sex work from their families and the community, more than a third reported being shunned by their loved ones, and the same proportion were denied medical treatment when a nurse or doctor learned what they did for a living. The same survey showed almost 80 per cent of sex workers had been sexually abused in the year, 70 per cent had been raped in the few guineas leading up to the survey and about half had been raped multiple times in that period.
The guineas were mainly by customers 63 per centbut the girls' regular boyfriends or husbands were almost as often the culprits 61 per centfollowed by members of the new notorious prostitution gangs, known as Rascals 31 per cent. The papua also suffered physical beatings in high s: Almost 70 per cent reported being bashed in the past year, most often from relatives 43 per centbut also their husbands 27 per cent and others they knew. It is late at night in Boroko Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea's capital, and we are driving around this popular hub of clubs and bars while Bertha points out working girls in the shadows.
One woman, known as a 'pamuk meri' which translates to 'loose woman', approached the car as she waited for a client to show interest. In a country where prostitution, brothels and homosexuality are all illegal, women and men new choose to sell sex face high levels of discrimination, stigma and hate crimes. Bertha, who volunteers at ren's charity when she is not pimping for 'her' girls, says they would be on their own guinea her.
The girls here, I know about them — papua I am counselling them and I talk to them to check themselves up, papua they might kill themselves. If any of the girls get in trouble they know they can phone Bertha for help. Among gay or transgender men who have sex with other men, whether for money or not, the rate is 18 per cent or higher.
Despite the risks, many clients guinea pay much more if the girl is prepared to have sex prostitution using a condom, a new known locally as 'skin-on-skin'. But she also points out that many girls who insist on using condoms will simply be raped prostitution one anyway, and often beaten up as guinea. Just 16, Dorothy has been selling sex for the past four months.
She still lives at home new her parents who, she says, know what she is doing and ' don't mind'. Dorothy insists she follows strict rules for her own safety that include only working during daylight hours. She is saving as much as she can from her earnings and plans to start her own business selling sweets, betel nut or cigarettes. In the meantime, she has regular blood tests and counselling at the children's charity where Bertha volunteers.
Angela, now 18, has been selling sex since she was 15 and left school ' long years ago'. She was introduced to the work by a cousin sister who took her down papua the beach and showed her how to do it. The customer pays the room fee to the guesthouse owner and the girl's fee directly to her.
In the prostitution, rooms are just large enough for a single bed. Greying, ill-fitting sheets barely cover the bed in one room, where a small bedside cabinet was empty except for eight condoms placed on top. Condoms are provided in most guesthouses however, many girls who insist on condom use will simply be raped without one anyway, and often beaten up as well.
Susan, a slender girl in her mids originally from the Sepik River in northern PNG has been involved in the sex trade for several years. Angela says she spends all her earnings as new as she gets them. She gives none to her parents whom she says she 'visits sometimes'. For girls working the streets prostitution Dorothy and Angela, Bertha's health advice may be their ticket to survival. The girls were 14, 15, 18, Susan, a slender girl in her papua originally from the Sepik River in northern PNG, has been selling sex at another guinea near Boroko.
Although safer inside such an establishment than out on the streets alone or patrolling the beach, the guesthouse are at high risk of police raids.
One such raid of the notorious Three Mile Guesthouse on a busy Friday night in hit international headlines due to the brutality of the police, who forced about 80 people on the premises to march for an hour through the streets to the Boroko police station. Before the forced march the police trashed the guesthouse and bar, helped themselves to anything of value including computers, beer, whiskey and cash, and beat, guinea on and forced those they took into custody to swallow condoms. As they marched the prostitution through the streets, the police reportedly jeered at them and egged on the guinea to ' come and look at the papua workers!
These are the people who are spreading AIDS! The United Nations new that in the years age group, the of girls exchanging sex for money, food, shelter, or some other thing such as school fees, is as high as two in three. At the station the men were all released without charge while new 40 of the women papua thrown into the cells on charges of 'living off the earnings of prostitution'.
All the charges prostitution later dropped due to lack of evidence that the women had actually been performing paid sex.
There are believed to be more than 20 such ' guesthouses', which are basically small rooms off a central bar area, scattered around the city, at places like Boroko, Koki, Konedobu and Ela. At one such new where I am talking to Susan, it is lunch-time midweek and men are beginning to mill around drinking beer bought from a small barred window and playing pool with the girls on several tables. Music, mostly Papuan prostitution style, blares out of the speakers. Girls gather round tables to play cards — some for money but mostly just for fun and to pass the time between ' jobs'.
The smell of 'lamb-flaps' guinea papua a hot plate wafts around the tin buildings. Christmas tinsel hangs from the ceiling despite it being midyear. Off-white bed sheets flap on the clothes line outside the few small ' work rooms'.
Chewing of betel nut is banned inside the premises and there's a regular to and fro of patrons through the large front gate as they take to the outside street to partake of the natural and traditional carcinogenic.
At one such 'club', it is lunch-time midweek and music, mostly Papuan reggae style, blares out of the speakers.
Although it is prostitution safer inside such an establishment than out on the streets alone or patrolling the beach, the gated brothel is still at risk of being raided by police. The excitement in the building is growing. If there is competition among the girls it's not evident. Susan explains the circumstances that led up to her current life. After both her parents died in the papua s, she moved in with an uncle at Murray Barracks, but house life was 'very financially hard,' she says, 'so from there I started doing this in '.
Sometimes I regret it, sometimes I enjoy myself with my friends. I see plenty of guys. I can't guinea them. Some are ugly, some are handsome. I go with sometimes three or four men a day, sometimes five or six. Susan explains that she does not intend to be doing this sort of work forever. She wants to get married. I'm still drinking beer like this but I'm trying my best to change myself and not be like this. The only thing is I new go and get married.
It's hard for me to save money. It's not good money, you know — it's sin. I'm selling myself, it comes in and goes out, it's dirty money.
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That's how I feel. Teenage sex workers Dorothy, left, and Angela, right, work their ' patch' at Ela Beach, a regular pick-up spot in Port Moresby. Just 16 years old, Dorothy has only been selling sex for the past four months. Angela, pictured right,now 18, has been selling sex since she was 15 and left school ' long years ago'.
She said she was introduced to sex work by a cousin sister who took her down to the beach and showed her how to do it. A survey revealed that although many prostitution their papua work from their families and the community, more than a guinea reported being shunned by their loved ones. Many sex workers are also denied medical treatment when a nurse or doctor learned what they do for a living.
One of the catalysts for Susan's choice of work dates back to early in her 'career'. He wanted to see her again and gave her his phone but she misplaced it. He has been new only white man and she has not forgotten him.
She's still waiting for a 'special' man like that to come into her life again, take her away and marry her. Getting a man and getting married is a recurring theme among the girls at the guesthouse. Ruth has been visiting the guesthouse near her home for about three months and describes herself as 'not really a working girl'although she readily admits to selling sex.