TONI THORNE: Less judgement on sex workers
LAST MONDAY, my cameraman and I roamed the streets filming and having discussions with sex workers. We discussed their reasons for this career choice, their sexual health and the risks affiliated with sex work.
One young woman really left a lasting impression on me. I do not believe that I would ever forget our conversation.
She said she got into sex work after her mother encouraged them to get involved to support their household. The thought of a mother doing such a thing was shocking.
The young lady also told us of her practice of getting tested for STI’s once a month. A friend in the social work sector subsequently confirmed that statistically speaking, many sex workers get tested more regularly than the average non-sex worker. I searched for official confirmation but upon speaking with another person in the social work sector, his response was: “This can quite possibly be true.”
In the three hours that we filmed the interviews I was told of stories of sexual abuse, physical abuse, human trafficking and mothers who were sex workers and operated as pimps for their daughters during their menstrual cycles.
Additionally, we were told of instances where persons were stoned, had acid thrown at them and encounters with clients who wanted more than they were willing to pay for. One young woman shook her head after I asked if there was no other way she could make money. She said, “A lot of these girls live to be out here. I am out here to live.”
There was a sense of hopelessness in this response. We called a well-known social worker who advised us of the options that this young lady could explore to take steps to transition from sex work to hairdressing – a long time dream of hers.
Another young lady also said that in a five-minute time span she was once hired and fired and having no credible references in her life at present, getting another job was difficult.
Every single one of the sex workers we spoke to highlighted the fact that most people are quicker to judge than to offer a helping hand. Unlike a response I got at a meeting recently, a helping hand is not simply giving someone money. There is great merit in the adage, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”. Sometimes, a helping hand can come in the form of making a suggestion for a skills training programme, a session with a counsellor at the Ministry of Health or the Barbados Family Planning Association.
Sometimes, a helping hand can come in the form of taking a bet on someone and believing that they do what’s better for himself or herself. Whatever it is, I’d like more of us to understand that we cannot truly assume or speak on someone’s path until we have walked in his or her shoes. It is extremely unfortunate that many sex workers feel as though enduring the dangers associated with sex work is their only option. That in itself is hard enough as it is. The young lady’s words will forever be etched in my head should I encounter sex workers in passing or in conversation. Less judgement and more humanity. Every sex worker is certainly not living to be there. We have all at one time felt trapped and hopeless in a situation.
Toni Thorne is a young entrepreneur and World Economic Forum Global Shaper who loves global youth culture, a great debate and living in paradise. Email: Tonithorne@hotmail.com