KINGSTON, Jamaica – Witnessing the death of a colleague who refused to refund a customer his money after sex, robberies, contracting HIV are some of the dangers etched in the mind of a Kingston woman who says she prostitutes herself to take care of her family.
The 27-year-old mother of three, is among 16 people, including her nephews, mother and siblings, who occupy a dilapidated building in a popular inner-city community.
According to her, she sells her body on Fridays, sometimes on Saturdays and on Sundays, in one of the areas where prostitutes align the street as soon as the sun sets.
“Mi really wah stop ’cause the road no pretty. You have to run from police. You have man a rob you. Them tell you say dem a give you X an’ when you go in a no X. Them put knife at your throat. When you finish dem a say them want back their money. Sometimes you belly hurt you because the men say him want his money’s worth. Sometimes the condom burst. Sometimes I don’t want to go, it stress me,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
When the Sunday Observer visited the woman on a balmy Wednesday morning last week, the stench of filth loitered in the atmosphere. Obviously ashamed of her situation, the woman pointed towards the building and said: “I need help.”
The structure, a dilapidated mess; the concrete, apparently fallen from the second floor in fragments, decorated the entrance of the building, while a piece of zinc was used to replace the concrete.
“My sister was coming from upstairs one day and she fell through the floor downstairs. Inside stay bad. When it rain inside soak,” she said.
By this time the tenement yard became a buzz with activities as residents who were obviously immune to the stench, went back and forth inside their derelict structures.
Unable to differentiate the woman’s siblings from her children, one of the toddlers cooled down in a bucket of water while the others played among themselves.
Another woman, who she described as her younger sister and her colleague, was seen doing her laundry.
The woman, who was quick to point out that she had sought assistance from a counsellor, but was advised to seek help from her children’s fathers who also live in the community, said she bought building materials from her earnings and began constructing.
The knee-high structure that was all steel and concrete looked like it had grown from the ground close to the perimeter fence.
She however said that the influx of prostitutes and the services they offer has strained her earnings.
The woman, who is the eldest of her nine siblings, told the Sunday Observer that she earns over $5,000 on a weekend.
“Saturdays are slow. Sometimes I will make $5,000. Sometimes I will make $10,000. You have who like me and will give me thing,” she said.
This money, she said, is used to purchase groceries for her family and send her children to school.
“Mi will spend a $2,000 and buy five pounds of rice, sugar, flour, three thins of mackerel and so. When the food cook everybody get something to eat,” she said, adding that the food lasts a day or two.
The woman, who made it clear that she is seeking employment, said she would create employment for herself and her sisters if given the opportunity.
“Even if mi get something to sell, I will go downtown or walk the communities and sell it,” she stated as her one-year-old son tugged onto the end of her dress.
Clad only in diapers, she lifted him from the ground as he aggressively took out her breast and stuffed it into his mouth. Within seconds, his cries echoed through the yard as an indication that there was no milk in her breast.
When this reporter asked the woman if she or the child had eaten since dawn, she said no, as she looked away with him in her bosom.
He subsequently fell asleep.
In addition, she said the children’s fathers support them occasionally.
“If a them birthday or clinic day, they will give them stuff, or if me send them around there the big one father will give him money to buy something. This morning me send him ’round there and he gave him $150,” she said, adding that the second child was staying with his paternal grandmother.
With frustration plastered on her face, the mother said the roof had caved in. As a result of that she explained that whenever it rains, inside the house becomes similar to the outside.
“The other day when the rain fall we had to brave the water,” she continued, adding that she was hustling to purchase two sheets of zinc prior to the hurricane season, but it did not materialise.