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AFGHANISTAN: Food prices fuelling sex work in north?

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MAZAR-I-SHARRIF, 16 July 2008 (IRIN) – High food prices, drought,
unemployment and lack of socio-economic opportunities are pushing some women and
young girls in northern Afghanistan into commercial sex work, women’s rights
activists and several affected women told IRIN.

“I have no way of feeding my children other than by doing this disgusting
job,” said 27-year-old Nasima (not her real name), a commercial sex worker in
Balkh Province.

Clad in a blue ‘burqa’, Najiba, a sex worker in Mazar-i-Sharrif, the
provincial capital of Balkh Province, said she had been pushed into sex work
after food prices started rising dramatically in November 2007.

“I am a widow and I have to feed my five children. I am illiterate and no one
will give me a job. I hate to be a prostitute but if I stop doing this job my
children will starve to death,” Najiba told IRIN.

Most women who turn to sex work are illiterate widows who lack professional
skills to find alternative employment, according to Malalai Usmani, head of a
local women’s rights non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Balkh.

“Extreme poverty and the obligation to feed their dependents have increased
prostitution among women,” Usmani said.

Severe penalties

In Afghanistan sexual relations between a man and a woman outside marriage
are considered a serious crime and offenders can face death penalty and/or a
lengthy prison sentence, depending on their marital status and other

Every year hundreds of female sex workers are sent to prison for allegedly
having “unlawful sexual relationships”, according to women’s rights activists
such as Usmani.

“This [sex work] is an abhorrent deed and an appalling crime. We encourage
and help security forces to arrest and punish women involved in prostitution,”
said Fariba Majid, director of the Women’s Affairs Department in Balkh Province.

Majid acknowledged that many female sex workers have no other option, but
warned that the country’s Islamic laws and conservative culture meant
prostitution was “unacceptable”.

Sex workers are also exposed to stigma and discrimination. “We cannot live in
one place for long,” said a middle-aged sex worker who refused to be identified.
“We move as soon as local people become suspicious of us.”

“People will spit on us and no one will interact with us if they know about
our work,” she added.

Poor HIV/AIDS awareness

Afghanistan launched its first ever national HIV/AIDS control programme in
2003. At least 436 HIV/AIDS cases have been confirmed over the past five years,
according to the Ministry of Public Health.

Health specialists warn that sex workers, intravenous drug users, truck
drivers and other vulnerable groups have very little knowledge about sexually
transmitted diseases and preventive measures.

At least three female sex workers interviewed by IRIN said they paid no
attention to HIV, and had not used condoms to avoid infection and/or the spread
of the virus.

“I don’t know about HIV/AIDS,” said a female sex worker who preferred
anonymity. “I have not seen any of my clients using a condom.”

Saif-ur-Rehman, director of the National HIV/AIDS Control Programme in Kabul,
said there was a widespread lack of awareness about sexually transmitted
diseases and HIV among commercial sex workers.

“We will launch a project to boost awareness and introduce preventive
measures among sex workers hopefully in September [2008],” Rehman told IRIN,
adding that the distribution of free condoms would be part of the project. “It’s
a very sensitive project and we will try to avoid misconceptions that it
supports or encourages prostitution in Afghanistan.”


Written by afghandevnews

July 18, 2008 at 4:45 am

Posted in Food security

One Response

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  1. what a pity.There are social wars we have to fight within our own deferent cultural societies and have done nothing throughout the ages to stop it, we’ve only condemed the victems or let them to the lustful ways of illiterate lonely brutes. Nobady wanted or wants to deal with the problem that has not altered it’s delincuent and poverty form of existance and abuse on both sexes throughout the ages.Maybe this century will be defferent and they will have a hand to get out of the gang traps they were led into or the poverty misfortune of life.

    Reply on Russia’s sex slave industry thrives


    July 18, 2008 at 11:12 pm

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