The Oldest Profession / Ignacio Estrada

by Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba. The oldest profession has returned to Cuban streets and provides a stable source of income for a vast number of mostly young Cubans.

Regardless of time or weather, there are no shortages of sex workers in Havana to satisfy a sexual appetite. The revolution of 1959 promised equality for all but the largest share of its benefits went to those in positions of power, their cronies or closest relatives. In its wake and in spite of shutting down the old nightclubs and brothels, prostitution has returned as one of the best paid professions today.

The trade is practiced by those we least suspect — coworkers, neighbors or even classmates. Large numbers of people in recent years have changed their morals like chameleons change colors and lead double lives.

I have nothing against those who choose to become prostitutes. Quite the opposite. I believe that it’s time that the Cuban government legalize the practice, unionize the workers and allow them, as is done in other countries, to be licensed as legitimate Sex Workers.

Male and female prostitution is not only practiced in the Capital but it extends to every territory. There are known brothels, escort services and red zones, the last which are prone to violence and crime. Charges are different for citizens and  foreigners and are even higher when part of the profits go to a broker or a pimp.

Without sanitary practices and health screenings, prostitution has caused an increase in the spread of veneral diseases. The rate of HIV/STDs is now higher than it has ever been in the nation’s history.

There needs to be a call to action to demand that all who provide or use these services follow safe sexual practices.

While some parents are proud because their children bring home new clothes, perfumes, gifts or other items, others mourn the loss of a son or daughter to violence, to abuse or to illnesses such as HIV. There are also those who are happy that their children have managed to leave Cuba to live elsewhere and can return to visit them carrying gifts.

As a nation, we need to put an end to injustice and legitimize this line of work so it’s treated the same way as any other profession. Legalization would provide protection under the law as well as protection from officers of the law who abuse their power to extort and harass the sex workers.

It is important that parents, family and citizens safeguard children, supervise their activities, know where they are at all times and ensure that they are not exploited or misled, especially for sexual purposes.

While I have nothing against prostitution, I condemn those who take advantage of minors for sexual favors in exchange for gifts or money. The foreign press and other outlets report that child prostitution exists. I am unaware of any such case as a reporter but if I learned of one I would have no problem denouncing it in an article.

Legalization of sex workers does not condone civil disobedience. We need to find a way to keep our streets and neighborhoods clean and safe, to protect the workers and the customers from disease and to regulate and legitimize a commonly practiced trade.

Translated by: Vivian S. Bedoya

25 March 2013