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Prostitutions, pimps change style amid police crackdown
Underground ‘flesh market’ booming in ‘staid’ Kuwait
By Chidi Emmanuel
KUWAIT: Holding a shopping bag, an umbrella and a mobile phone, Jayanti (who claimed to be from North India) could be mistaken as a working class lady who was just coming out of a shopping mall. But after a chat with a Kuwait Times reporter who posed as an undercover ‘customer’, Jayanti revealed her true identity - a sex worker. “How much will you pay me,” she asked with a smile. After negotiating, she agreed to take KD 15 for two hours. When asked why she was carrying a shopping bag filled with food items, she said “if you walk alone on the street empty handed, the cops (police) will suspect you, but if you carry a shopping bag, they will think you went shopping.”
A few minutes later, Kuwait Times spotted another woman in her mid-thirties roaming around near Apollo Hospital in Salmiya, who turned out to be a prostitute too. “Why are you following me,” she queried at first. After a while, she entered one of the baqalas in the area - pretending to be buying some things, but when she noticed that we were not cops after our interactions with her, she started bargaining on the price. “How long do you want it and how much will you give?” she asked. At the end, we agreed to meet the following day for KD 20 – short service.
HOME DELIVERY, PROSTITUTION ZONE
Prostitutes and pimps in Kuwait are getting smarter and adopting new looks these days, as authorities clamp down on their illegal activities. From Ahmadi to Farwaniya governorate, the sex business seems to be flourishing with the stakeholders devising different ways to navigate through their underground sex trade routes. Recently, police in Hawally arrested two men accused of running a prostitution service and using cafes to lure their customers. The suspects, an Arab man and an Indian, admitted during investigations that they helped set up customers with Asian prostitutes for KD 10 a night. Also in Farwaniya, police raided 10 vice dens and arrested 16 suspects and 45 young pleasure seekers including Kuwaiti men, according to another report.
In Hasawi, a Kuwait Times reporter who acted as an undercover customer was led to a brothel by a pimp who offered to set him up with a prostitute for KD 5, but eventually settled for KD 3 (per round). It seems Kuwait governorates have been divided into prostitution zones. Whereas Ahmadi governorate is controlled mostly by Filipinos, Hawally governorate is dominated by Ethiopians while the Farwaniya governorate and part of Salmiya are controlled by South Asians (Indians, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis). “We control this area. We don’t have Ethiopians here. If you want Ethiopians, go to Hawally,” one Bangladeshi pimp boasted when a Kuwait Times reporter (undercover) sought an Ethiopian prostitute. He gave the contact of another pimp (known as The Big Mama) in charge of Salmiya area, and introduced us to her.
When contacted, Big Mama asked us what age limit we want and how much we were willing to pay. “I have between 25-30 and 30-36 year-old ladies,” she said. “If you want, I can bring them to your house. You don’t need to come and pick my girls, I will tell my special taxi to bring them to you,” she added. After first, she wanted to make sure we were neither Arabs or South Asians. When asked why she doesn’t deal with Arabs and South Asians, she said “they don’t like to pay and if you demand your money, they will threaten to call the police. Also, some of them are working for the police. Police pay them to catch us (prostitutes),” she added as she narrated their ordeals and ugly encounters with bad clients, police and the health hazards in the prostitution business. Even against all odds, money is still changing hands. Most of our sources requested anonymity for reasons of safety and protection.
In one of the shopping malls in Salmiya, three Chinese ladies were sighted giving out their numbers to selected lucky guys. “How are you! Goodu man, callu mee ok [sic],” one the ladies said in a staccato of grammatical molotov cocktail as she clandestinely handed a piece of paper to the undercover reporter. “They always come here in the evening to look for jobs and customers.They come in groups,” one of the shop attendants told Kuwait Times. When asked what kind of job, he said “prostitution of course”. We eventually made the call to bargain. But when asked why they are selective, the Chinese prostitute echoed the same reason given by Big Mama. “Although they (Arabs) are our main customers, they can put you in trouble.They don’t normally like don’t like to pay,” she said.
RISKS AND DEADLY BUSINESS
According to most of the prostitutes Kuwait Times interviewed, prostitutes make over KD 160 ($571) as monthly income, which is a reasonable income for someone with an Article 20 visa, thus making the prostitution business a lucrative one in Kuwait. Prostitution – one of the oldest professions in the world - is illegal in Kuwait and carries a severe punishment for offenders. The risks involved in this illicit business include violence, arrest, slavery, jail term, deportation and infections among others. In Hasawi, we (the Kuwait Times undercover reporter and a Bangladeshi pimp working for us) were attacked while covering this story by some pimps who accused us of being police agents. Our guide told us that the owner of the brothel in the area is enslaving girls and will do anything to protect his business.
“These prostitutes don’t have resident visas and do not undergo medical tests. This could be very dangerous when they are infected with any sexually transmitted diseases. They will just pass it to their clients who will then pass it over to their wives and kids as the chain reaction continues. Also, the prostitutes can as well be infected by their customers,” Dr Andrew O, a pediatrician at Sabah Hospital warned.
The kafeel system, unemployment and high cost of living top the list of factors that contributes to the growth of the ‘flesh market’ in Kuwait. According to our sources, Kuwaitis, Europeans and bedoons are now part of this lucrative business. Underground brothels now flourish in Jahra, Hasawi, Jleeb, Salmiya, Fahaheel, Fintas and Jabriya. “I can connect you to the Arabs including Kuwaitis who are into this business but you have to pay me KD 8 to get their contacts. They collect big money and you have to be very careful while dealing with them,” the Hasawi pimp advised.