street sex workers investigative article – innocent women of the day of chaos.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Ashanthi Warunasuriya 

Prostitution is indefinitely talked about. It is a subject of many views. Prostitution has been in the limelight of discussions especially because it has no legal base. The Colombo city, the commercial capital of the country, is one of its main centers. The town receives much attention from the local and foreign visitors as well as of every other person. 

Amidst its foremost position among them, even today one can witness at night or in daytime, many prostitutes alighting in the metropolitan for engaging in the oldest business of the humankind. Fort prostitutes have been recognised as street women who alight only in the night. But today, day or night they do not see any difference and engage in their business whole day. Those who come to Fort in daytime can witness many prostitutes languishing near lodges, restaurants, Fort railway station and hotels. Some police officers pretend they do not notice them even though they can be arrested for engaging in prostitution. A police officer said that arresting them would not make any difference in their behaviour. “They are fined Rs. 100 and released. No point of making them aware of the danger of engaging in prostitution either, because they have no any other livelihood,” he said.

In fact, the law against prostitution has many loopholes from where they can evade the law and continue the process. But the law alone cannot sever a life-long habit. Prostitution has a maze of roots. They include political, social, educational, psychological and many others uncountable bases. Some say the beginning of the end of prostitution should start with education. But researchers show that hundreds of highly educated women are engaging in prostitution thus altering the focus to some other crucial areas like politics and social spectrum.

Hundreds of people still dwell on the Fort pavements making them their permanent abodes. They do not have means to surpass the poverty they are in or the habit they have accustomed to from the day they were born. We toured the Colombo city several days and were able to talk with a few women in the business. Many of them have been in the flesh business due to unsurpassed obstacles and problems in their lives. While some have been languishing in Fort for many years, many reach the city anew from rural areas. Unbearable economic obstacles that they undergo in their villages compel them to reach the Colombo city, earn the day’s expense and return their villagers day by day. One girl said that she arrives at Fort three days per a week. Some women stay in Colombo at rented apartments in the guise of engaging in numerous employments.

They are in different age groups. Girls, middle aged women as well as old women are among Fort prostitutes. We spoke with a 62-year-old woman who dwells on Fort streets all her life earning her day’s expense by engaging in prostitution. She has reached Fort with her marriage. Once her marriage was broken, she fell into prostitution and now depends on it.

“What to do ma’am’. My life went wrong and none helped me. From that day, I live in Fort. I take my meals on the pavements; sleep near a café or at wherever I happened to be at night. Sometimes, I do this even for mere 500 rupees.” Her story reveals us many things. These women engage in the business even for 300 rupees since they do not have any alternative for their lives to drag on for the following day.

These women undergo utter poverty. Just seen their appearance, you can measure immeasurable difficulties that they undergo. Many of them are drug addicts. Their spouses are regular drunkards or life-long drug addicts. The women have to earn for their husband’s expense for drugs or alcohol every passing day. Their lives trot amidst domestic assaults and social discrimination.  “Police hit past us while we are asleep. One day they hit me so hard that I was breathless. Those were transferred now. We face knocks from every respect,” said another prostitute who usually occupies pavements for the night.

It is not a secret that upper-class prostitutes lie in beds with rich customers in luxury hotels for varied prices. Among them, street prostitutes should be regarded in respect for many reasons. Social activists have to take steps to rehabilitate street prostitutes. But it seems they are clueless in this regard.

On the other hand, Colombo lodges rent rooms for their customers at varied prices for them to stay with prostitutes. The lodge owners also supply prostitutes for customers. The prices vary from Rs. 800 to 3,000. Lodge owners are legally bound to submit a report on their customers to the police.

However, the reports omit these illegal deals. Reportedly, lodge owners keep police officers in bay by providing them with bribes. The racket exists nonstop for years. Still we are writing about them. We assuredly do not stop writing unless we see light in the tunnel for these innocent women of the day of chaos.