Prostitution in Cuba
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    Girls For Sale

    Girls For Sale / 14ymedio, Pedro Acosta
    Posted on March 10, 2016

    14ymedio, Pedro Acosta, Havana, 9 March 2016 – The teenage girl looks at
    the display window of CUPET at Santa Catalina and Vento with greedy
    eyes, a girl hungry for candy. She is tall, thin and fragile. She looks
    at me and seems to be saying “throw me a rope,” so I buy her a chocolate
    bar for 1.25 CUC.

    Her name is Barbarita, she lives in the Palatino neighborhood and is 14.
    She opens up after having lied to me when I asked her age when she
    promised she would “pay me” if I bought her a pair of sandals. No, she’s
    not 16, let alone 17. She’s been prostituting herself since she was 13
    for between two and four CUCs. Her father died when she was three,
    trying to reach the shores of the United States, and her mother is an
    alcoholic. She hasn’t studied since she quit elementary school two years
    ago. From the way she expresses herself it seems unlikely she passed the
    fourth grade.

    Tonight Barbarita was waiting for Dayana and Lisandra, two friends age
    21 and 16 respectively, who soon arrived. The three of them in front of
    my eyes gave the lie to the official statistics. In a 2013 report, the
    authorities assured that “cases of prostitution involving minors were
    minimal” and denied that Cuba is “a destination, transit or source
    country for human trafficking.”

    Dayana and Lisandra are cousins and live in El Cerro where they have
    been providing sexual services since they were 14. The younger girl is
    called la Yegua (the mare) and the older Tetris, like the computer game.
    Dayana has two children to support; their fathers are unknown but she
    doesn’t give that much importance. “Look, Lisandra knows who the father
    of hers is, but what good does it do her? She gave birth at 15 and went
    with him until she was 17 and the wretch hasn’t given her a single CUC.”

    La Yegua explained that she couldn’t support her daughter if she didn’t
    do “this.” “My dad kicked me out of the house and I live with my cousin
    who charges me even for the water,” she laments.

    Dayama maintains a relationship with an 84-year-old Canadian who comes
    frequently and, according to her friends, since then hasn’t lacked for
    anything. “Paul has bought me everything,” showing off an iPhone and a
    Rolex, “but with the money he leaves me I can’t support five people.”

    The increase in tourist arrivals has caused a surge in
    prostitution. Last year the United Nations Committee on the Rights of
    the Child called on the Cuban government to establish “an archive to
    analyze and monitor the possible impact of child trafficking with
    regards to the sale and trafficking of children for sexual purposes and

    The committee showed particular concern about the definition of
    adulthood as age 16, leaving a group of children very vulnerable to
    sexual abuse and prostitution without legal protection. Last September,
    the Cuban Justice Minister, Maria Esther Reus González, said in an
    interview that the country was considering legislative changes
    including, among other measures, raising the age of criminal
    responsibility and freedom to marry to 18.

    But below age 16, these are still cases of child prostitution. “La Reina
    (the queen) also works at this and she is only 12 and is ‘an expert’,”
    says Lisandra.

    Three days earlier in the Monoco wifi zone, I had met Leydis, an
    exhuberant mixed-race girl from the San Peditro neighborhood in Santiago
    de Cuba. “At 12 I already had this great body. I wanted my mother to
    give me a little party for my 14th birthday, I was mad for it. And one
    day, in the middle of the street, I told myself I would go to bed with
    some foreigner, and I would be yummy and he would give me a lot of
    dollars,” she said. A week later, she went to bed with an 18-year-old
    Cuban, the son of a businessman. She got pregnant and was thrown out of
    the house and went to live with her grandmother. She had just turned 14.
    Her son is now five and she lives in Santiago with her great-grandmother.

    Leydis is embarrassed, but told me her story after a beer. “In Santiago,
    between my pimp and the police they barely leave me a cent, and I bring
    in 10 CUC for Cubans and 15 for foreigners. Also, since they’ve already
    fingerprinted me, they could put me in prison at any moment for
    ‘dangerousness’*,” she explains.

    Her situation brought her to Havana, where she settled in the home of an
    uncle without a residence permit.** “I wanted to quit with the bad life
    and go after my little bucks, although not legally, but without bitching
    and without stealing. And you see, today they fined me 1,500 pesos and
    they seized from me soaps and tubes of Colgate toothpaste worth 100 CUC.”

    When I ask her if she is thinking of selling her products to pay off her
    debt she tells me that I’m crazy and reminds me that now she is
    fingerprinted. “What I’m going to do is what I did in Santiago, hit the
    streets. Here, in the Monaco neighborhood, there are rentals nearby and
    a lot of people with money. I already met some girls who do it, even
    from Santiago, and they tell me that so far the police don’t pick you up
    for that.”

    In 2014, the Interior Ministry said in a report that most crimes of
    sexual abuse of minors occur “domestically” because in Cuba there are no
    “criminal networks” engaged in trafficking or child abuse. This was the
    response to a United Nations report which placed Cuba among the
    countries with the most cases of sexual exploitation of children in the
    world – along with Argentina, Brazil, Sri Lanka and Chile – while the
    authorities continue to close their eyes to the evidence.

    Translator’s notes:
    *Prostitution is not a crime in Cuba but “pre-criminal dangerousness” is
    and carries a sentence of 1 to 4 years.
    **Cubans non-native to Havana require a residence permit to live in the
    capital city.

    Source: Girls For Sale / 14ymedio, Pedro Acosta | Translating Cuba –

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