Resorting to prostitution in Haiti

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LISA MULLINS: As we just heard, many women in Haiti have been forced to resort to prostitution just to put food on the table. The World's Amy Bracken spoke with some of them in the capital Port-au-Prince, and sent this story.

AMY BRACKEN: It's a Monday night in Port-au-Prince. On the edge of a park-turned tent camp. Cars cruise along, some slowly, their drivers scanning the sidewalk. Many of the young women standing in the dim light are at work, just starting their nightly shifts. A lanky girl in neat braids and white pants leans on a wall. She's Charlene, an 18-year-old mother of young twins. Her husband, a mechanic, was killed in the January 12th earthquake. Desperate and scared but encouraged by a friend, she was out on the streets within two weeks of the disaster.


CHARLENE: When I started it felt bizarre, sleeping with all these people. But I was obliged to do it. Now it's still difficult and I still don't like it, but everyone needs to do what she can to survive. And I see how brave the other women act and I try to follow their lead. Now I just come out and make the money, and that's it.

BRACKEN: Charlene makes anywhere between one and thirteen dollars per client. Every once in a while, a kind soul will give her money and keep on walking. More often, a client will refuse to pay, and sometimes get violent. Still, walking the streets provides some kind of income for girls and women who feel they have no other options in post-earthquake Haiti. On the next corner is another teenager. Recila stands in a tight red shirt and jeans, her hair ironed straight around her face. When she sits down to talk with me, she rocks herself back and forth. She tells me she's been out here every night since March.


RECILA: I have three kids and I don't have anyone who can help me with them. My parents both died in the earthquake, and so did the father of my children.

BRACKEN: Recila's house was destroyed, and a neighbor took them in. But Recila couldn't keep relying on the charity of friends. She says she hates selling her body. But it beats one thing.


RECILA: I said to God, I don't want to resort to stealing. Don't put me in a position where I have to steal, because whatever comes my way, I'll do it.

BRACKEN: This kind of desperation existed in Haiti before the earthquake, but observers say the situation has gotten much worse. Cherley is a former prostitute. She now volunteers as an outreach worker.


CHERLEY: I see a lot of girls on the streets who are 14, 15, 16 years old. There are tents in the park that serve as brothels. There are people who take advantage of the situation by abusing the children.

BRACKEN: Cherley works with a group called ANAPFE. Before the earthquake, ANAPFE provided small grants to 50 women who were working as prostitutes to pay their way through school. The grants were to help the women start businesses, selling food and used clothing on the street. But many of those businesses were destroyed in the earthquake, and the women have been forced to go back to prostitution. ANAPFE and other groups are trying to secure funding to provide new grants and loans so these women have some options in their struggle to feed themselves and their families. For The World, I'm Amy Bracken, Port-au-Prince.