Of all things Haiti needs as it rebuilds after January's devastating earthquake are prostitutes. Yet Time reports today that post-quake Haiti has attracted a startling number of sex workers, mostly women from the neighboring Dominican Republic, who were told the number of foreign aid-workers and amount relief money coming to Haiti would equal big money. Unfortunately, many of them have fallen victim to sex trafficking.
Dominican prostitutes traveling to Haiti is nothing new, but recent data from the United Nations shows that even more sex workers have moved into the disaster-torn country.
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Juanita, 22 (her name has been changed to protect her identity), says she decided to take a two-month contract to work in Port-au-Prince, leaving her hometown of Santiago de los Caballeros. A friend had convinced Juanita that she could make a sizable income because of the influx of foreigners and the huge amount of financial assistance headed toward Haiti. A June 2010 "Trafficking in Persons Report" by the U.S. State Department found forced prostitution of Dominican women in brothels in Haiti allegedly frequented by peacekeepers in the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti. The U.N. forbids peacekeepers from patronizing brothels and is currently investigating the cases.
Instead of riches, Juanita found only harsh conditions. At most, her services net $150 a night. One-third goes to the gentlemen's club where she works, and the rest is divided between her and her pimp. She rarely has money to send back to her 2-year-old son and sleeps in a room with 25 other women, with as many as three to a single bed.
Other women say they are tricked into doing the work. Once they arrive, their passports are taken and they are threatened with physical violence.
Prostitution is technically illegal in Haiti, but the government rarely prosecutes it. Instead, advocates say the Dominican Republic needs to crack down on many of its women being promised enough money to support their families, only to find themselves victims of sex trafficking.