In my recent fieldwork with girls involved in intergenerational prostitution (prostituted by their husbands and in-laws), I have found it very difficult to find the answers I am looking for. Are these girls being forced to prostitute? Is this something they actually want to do, as they have indicated to me in our discussions? As I walk through the slum where this community resides, I often get the feeling that many of the younger girls don’t want to do this but have several communal, familial, and marital pressures that suffocate their choices. During interviews, I have noticed that the older women speak on behalf of the younger girls who are relatively quiet. Several NGOs have worked on and off with the community, most providing condoms and HIV testing services and some teaching English and the arts to the children. Still, this outreach feels symptomatic and most of these girls no longer utilize these services after marriage, which happens in the early to mid teens and which is when they begin the sex work. Understanding the way the girls actually think on a very internal level may allow NGOs to truly help empower them to have the courage to resist the pressures I’ve mentioned. However, I have yet to hear about or see any groups even begin to ask about mental health. Continue reading
All names have been changed, the characters are untraceable as the original storyteller was a stranger to me, but the story is true and I wish it wasn’t.
A young girl named Luisa came to Los Angeles when she was 12 years old from Honduras. She is the grand-daughter of a woman, Angela, who works in a family friend’s home as a domestic worker. Angela is also from Honduras and her only daughter was killed because of extreme domestic violence from an alcoholic husband. Luisa is the child of Angela’s deceased daughter. Angela eventually saved enough money from her low-wage job to pay a coyote to bring Luisa across the border, and Luisa moved in with her uncle Alfredo, Angela’s son. Alfredo, his wife Anna, and their two children, Victor and Susie, are all undocumented immigrants and live each day with the fear of being sent back to Honduras where the Mara Salvatrucha gang has destroyed their neighborhood. Alfredo is very hardworking and struggles long hours in a minimum wage job at a fastfood restaurant while Anna cleans houses in wealthy neighborhoods 7 days a week. Continue reading