So called massage parlours that are perceived by many to be undercover commercial sex operations have also been coming under scrutiny with a small operation in Portmore relocating to a new address after they feared they would be raided due to public pressure from citizens in that region, the numerous ads that appeared in selected newspapers have been decreasing, the hip street on the back road in Portmore (Port Henderson)as well has been coming under pressure ever since the debate came to light that the area may be declared a red light district a call that the Portmore citizenry has sent a strong backlash to.
Decency and advocacy.
While I can concur with the rule of law and maintaining public decency removing the commercial sex workers be they male or female from the street without any commensurate social support systems is foolhardy. They will just take their trade to other places and continue whilst putting themselves at further risk by engaging in risky behaviour by improper condom negotiating skills in a bid to secure any customer who may come by some of who ask for bareback sexual activities to be performed on them or any other unusual requests in a bid to secure funds. One commercial sex worker I interviewed said she has had one of her former clients move in as he proposed to help her as he is romantically interested so she has been able to become stable in a sense for some months now, not an usual occurrence but rarely happens to a few CSWs, most others however are not so lucky they have to be plying their trade at bars and other spots doubling as exotic dancers as well with very little success as the economic situation has already made a fledgling business even less fruitful. Male sex workers on the other hand cannot do exotic dancing as supplemental income hence they become more overt wit h their side of the craft in a bid to secure business fortunately at a time when some fragile tolerance seems to have come from not only their female counterparts on the respective strips and their pimps but also men who seek such services by meeting them in these spaces.
One of the other sad parts about this is that some of the CSWs are HIV positive with very little support systems on the street despite the availability of a Commercial Sex Workers Association that with little funding and resources it too has its share of issues to attend to. There was a project launched earlier last year through a private entity to assist some Commercial Sex Workers of female persuasion to train and find work in other parts of the world as household technicians and other similar typed positions. It was met with some cynicism by public commentators and the sections of the religious community, not surprising as many feel commercial sex workers cannot improve their lives and are always so despite whatever progressive changes they embark on, so much for religion and inclusion.
There are no such known programs for MSMs who engage in sex work that is of great significance that would seek to help them rehabilitate towards gainful employment and assimilation into general society. The peer group sessions that used to occur some time ago seem to have waned.
There was a report of an incident just recently where an alleged male Commercial Sex Worker was approached by would be clients in a tinted green motor vehicle as described a friend of the alleged victim he made his way to the vehicle but obviously was not versed in the ways of the road and leaned onto the window frame of the car he was grabbed by occupants in the vehicle, a struggle ensued where he managed to get away from his would be kidnappers as it were. There are also reports of two MSMs who frequent the streets in the business district as missing for some time without any verification as to what may have occurred to them. Such are the dangers on the roads with our homeless MSMs another set of possible sad outcomes for this seriously overlooked and really marginalized group. With the patrols by the police on in earnest the trade has been severely hampered, possible clients themselves are scared of coming onto the road to seek sexual favours as they too fear being arrested according to the female sex worker I spoke to. Many of the sex workers are known to me from my previous dispensation as an Outreach Officer in the public health system where our responsibilities included empowering them with condom negotiating skills and self efficacious activity plans.
Other sources on the ground including route taxi operators informed GJW that they have witnessed chases by the police and men on a few occasions in the same area where they normally ply their trade. “The exhibitionist route” as I call it which was shown to me by a gay route taxi operator late last year is a spot where men in the late hours of the morning offer open masturbation sessions or shows in public have also been closed as the particular area is empty. The practice is said to be an offshoot of an area in United States and some parts of Europe where the same kind of exhibitionism occurs by both sexes for payment of for fun by the persons involved.
There must be possible solutions to empower this group of at risk persons, but with all the other social ills, economic and political fallouts who has time to seriously pay attention to this group with meaningful results and not just talk. I hope the project that was started by the private entity continues and may eventually reach the male workers as well so as to get them occupied in something else.
Peace and tolerance