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    Between Neglect and Helplessness.

    Between Neglect and Helplessness. Prostitution in Cuba, Part 3 / Miriam
    Posted on September 16, 2013

    Official secrecy and complicit silence

    The original sin of the “Cuban Revolution” in relation to prostitution
    lies not in the fact of its not being able to eradicate it, a clearly
    impossible task, but in denying its very existence. Such a denial
    doesn’t only retard the search for solutions for social problems —
    sexual slavery, drug trafficking, child prostitution, the spread of
    sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS, etc. — that have appeared on
    the Island, but also prevents the population from having a clear
    perception of the issue and its social implications.

    By excluding the issue from public debate it remains buried under less
    pressing emergencies related to economic survival and the precariousness
    of material resources. At the same time, these very privations
    accelerate the the deterioration of moral values, and feed the growth of
    prostitution, especially among teenagers under 18, who constitute the
    most vulnerable sector. A vicious circle that closes in on itself with a
    Gordian knot that seems to have no solution.

    The end of innocence

    While many adult women have chosen for themselves the path of
    prostitution, it is not less true that the entry of minors into the
    profession is ever more frequent. Eighteen marks the age of sexual
    consent in Cuba, but it is not rare to find girls between 13 and 17 who
    have already become prostitutes.

    These kinds of activities, although prohibited by current laws, are
    difficult to detect due the complex web of illegalities that has been
    consolidated in the heat of impunity, and that now includes the networks
    of “recruiters” (generally older prostitutes and pimps), brothels —
    often protected behind the facade of a legal business, clandestine
    hostels, etc. — and, in some cases, with the complicity of law enforcement.

    Police corruption, meanwhile, can be gross or subtle and ranges from
    simple extortion of the prostitute to the direct participation in
    obtaining monetary benefits under the concept of protecting the
    business; but in all cases it constitutes an important obstacle in
    combating this scourge.

    According to the testimonies of several prostitutes, some police
    officers who cover shifts at certain key points in the capital receive
    direct payment from them, or from the employees of neighborhood bars, to
    permit both the trafficking of these sex workers as well as the
    clandestine trade in rum and cigars that is a scam usually played on
    unsuspecting foreigners. Prostitutes and bartenders have established a
    kind of mutually beneficial professional collaboration and have created
    true niches of corruption, particularly in poor areas of dubious
    reputation, such as Chinatown in Havana or San Rafael Boulevard.

    The absence of institutions

    In addition, some life stories suggest that the majority of minors who
    venture into the world of prostitution come from dysfunctional families
    and have grown up in hostile homes, both materially and affectionately,
    without there being any institutions truly responsible for their safety
    and protection.

    A sample study conducted with a group of young prostitutes between the
    ages of 15 and 25, allows the conclusion that almost all of the cases
    came from dysfunctional homes, that prostitution among minors is a
    growing trend, and that the representatives of the repressive bodies or
    the courts are the only representatives of any official institution with
    which they have had any contact or relationship, whether it be to be
    blackmailed, arrested or punished; but never to offer them an
    alternative life or to enroll them in some social program that allows
    them to overcome the serious existential conflicts facing them.

    Some of them are completely lacking in family support, others have minor
    children, are school dropouts, have used drugs at least once, and/or
    smoke and drink alcoholic beverages regularly.

    The issue is compounded because it appears that there is no national
    program, nor even a local one, charged with supporting those who, given
    their particular circumstances, have taken to prostitution as a way to
    solve their material problems, not even for those who have lived in
    conditions of extreme poverty and lack of attention in dysfunctional
    homes, those who have been abandoned by their families, or for those who
    have been systematically abused, including by their own close family

    Such helplessness is even more inexplicable given that, for over half a
    century, the Government has developed organizations dedicated to
    “surveillance” on every block through the so-called Committees for the
    Defense of the Revolution (CDR), or to the needs and defense of women
    through the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). An institutional structure
    that, had it functioned in the social interest or fulfilled its founding
    principles, would have been capable of controlling this evil from the

    Neither the Government nor independent civil society

    Even though the problem of child prostitution potentially affects
    thousands of families, it does not seem to arouse significant interest
    on the part of the Government, largely responsible for the fate of so
    many frustrations; the same Government whose educational system, for
    decades, has robbed parents of their authority and awarded the
    “paternalistic” State custody of children, teenagers and young people,
    now abandoned to their own bad luck.

    More worrying still is that not even within the alternative spaces is
    there a particular interest in this matter. In any case, a debate on the
    topic is not emerging, nor are there civic proposals that take it on, to
    any extent, from independent civil society. This suggests that perhaps
    there is an underlying accumulation of moral prejudices or traditional
    taboos that prevent the same sectors which have opened spaces for
    questions as complex as racial discrimination or sexual diversity, from
    taking on the challenge of the debate about prostitution and its social

    But far beyond the lack of resources, what is really alarming is the
    apparent lack of political will within all parties to approach one of
    the most complex issues that Cuban social reality is facing in the near

    From DiariodeCuba

    Prostitution in Cuba:
    Part 1.
    Part 2.

    9 September 2013

    Source: “Between Neglect and Helplessness. Prostitution in Cuba, Part 3
    / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba” –