(JAMAICA GLEANER) — Even with shorter curfews starting at 11 p.m. now, sex workers like ‘Prettyface’ have to bring their A game in what is a crowded marketplace. As daytime business picks up, night-time services have also seen a rise in fortunes.
After a hiatus caused by coronavirus restrictions over the last three months, she is back on the streets to support her son, who recently won placement in a co-ed Corporate Area school after sitting the Primary Exit Profile exam.
The 13-year-old’s wants and needs, according to the single mother of two, drove her to work the streets while juggling her day job.
The time is short, so jostling for space and turf can get testy, which was the case as Prettyface had to be restrained by a security guard who works in one of Kingston’s most popular red-light districts.
Prettyface, whose services start at $2,000, doesn’t use hand sanitiser but has wipes in the age of the coronavirus, where sanitisation and physical distancing have become watchwords.
But the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic aren’t the only fear she keeps watch for. Prettyface told The Gleaner last Friday that one night, women hired a hitman to buy sex and kill her because she provided stiff competition.
The frightening incident happened just before the onset of COVID-19 on March 10.
“One night, the man come, and him say him can’t believe a me tru me pretty and nice, and him show me the gun and say, ‘A you mi come fi kill’,” the sex worker said. “Me and him a friend now, and mi coulda turn him roun fi say, ‘Go kill them.’”
Prettyface, 28, says that sex work amid the pandemic has been desperate and difficult, with the dribble of clients often leaving her in tears. She has been on the hunt for another job, but that prospect is daunting in an economy that has shed tens of thousands of jobs because of the coronavirus slowdown.
“Sometimes mi nuh have the guts fi come. Sometime mi want come, and mi a cry. Sometime mi come and nothing no mek, and mi worse cry, ‘cause me nuh know what to do,” Prettyface said.
“… Every different different man from all bout jus come wid dem destruction body come lay down and gone. Mi haffi fret if condom a go burst.”
Jamaica’s sex workers have continued to ply their trade in the shadows because of decades-old laws outlawing prostitution, but the police have often winked at unofficial red-light districts.
The risks of living outside the law, though, mean that sex workers are liable to be prosecuted even if they are the victims of felonies while on the job. The trade-off for survival includes giving sexual favours to cops, Prettyface says.
GREATER RISK OF EXPLOITATION
Inaccessibility to COVID-19 welfare because their jobs are illegal renders women like Prettyface at greater risk of exploitation in relationships because they lack the financial power to assert their independence.
Prettyface said she is in an abusive relationship and has the scars to show because her partner wants her to quit prostitution.
“Him a seh, ‘Stop sell’, and him nuh have it to give me. You know what that is? That mek mi want kill myself, and mi can’t give up ‘cause my son just pass.
“Him a stress mi, ‘Mommy, mi want this, mi want that,’ and if me nuh give him, him say, ‘Mommy, yuh don’t care, and a yuh man alone,” she told The Gleaner.
Prettyface’s finances were crippled at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in Jamaica in April and May, forcing her to get creative.
She described her partner’s income as “hand to mouth”, and she has had to resort to more risqué activities to get by. But she says that she is desperate to give her son a fighting shot at high school and is willing to go beyond mere night-time services. The almighty dollar, she said, is all that matters now.
“Can be a wife for a day as long as you have money. Money mek mi change. Mi will all cook all yuh food, clean yuh house,” she said.