Uzbek Dentist Turned Sex Worker
I’ve often wondered what possessed a girl to leave China or Russia (or environs) and sell sex to Sri Lankans. But I’ve never actually talked to a prostitute. My friend Navin Weeraratne, however, has. He took the time to talk to one such girl from Uzbekistan and posted her story on Facebook. He was kind enough to write a longer version for me here. I consider this the first guest post in Article 14. Please note that some identifying details and names have been changed.
By Navin Weeraratne
Prostitution is a fairly visible part of Colombo life. Until recently, it was an open secret that a floor of Liberty Plaza housed a brothel. There are numerous Chinese restaurants and karaoke bars that don’t serve much food or sing many songs.
Recently, it was Christmas night for me.
Christmas is from the former Soviet Union. She’s in her twenties, has spent years studying medicine, has a sweet young daughter, and likes to watch boxing. She’s a perfectly normal, educated, charming, Eastern European girl. Except that Christmas is a hooker.
I met her past midnight at a hotel. She was looking bored in a sexy but tasteful black dress with high heels. She wore a little makeup – she clearly knew more was less. Her eyes were dark, intelligent, suspicious. I checked her out and she looked away – and then back again. I knew she was the right girl.
“Hi. Can I take pictures of you?”
She either didn’t understand or didn’t believe me. She told me her rates were $100 an hour, and on that basis the market cleared and business was contracted. $100 seemed a pretty decent rate to me.
Christmas has been coming to Sri Lanka for years. She has a local accent and speaks Sinhala. Her daughter is back in her native country, and has learned to say “Ammi” instead of “Momma.”
Christmas is no dumb blonde. She went to medical school, and showed me her Photoshop editing work. I asked her what made her leave her life to come out to Sri Lanka to be a sex worker, but she didn’t want to talk about it.
There really is nothing more fun late at night than being out with a full on party girl, and Christmas defined party girl. She wanted beer, cigarettes, and Facebook. She took my arm and we checked out several clubs, but had to leave one in a hurry: it was another working girl’s turf and pimps were calling pimps.
After that I asked her to come over to my place. The only catch was beer (more for me) at that late hour, but our three wheeler driver told us he could get it easily from the “black market.” Christmas had no problem with going about in a three wheeler at night. “This is Kollupitiya. All the police know.”
She was however concerned about walking alone in the streets of Colombo. “You know what it’s like for women. If I’m alone, I am finished.”
At my place, Christmas started smoking heavily – not what you’d expect from someone with a medical background. She refused to tell me how many packs she smokes a day. I reminded her that Surgeon Generals frown on this sort of thing.
I was concerned she was a trafficked girl so I asked her if she had her passport. She said that it had gone missing after a client stole her purse one night, but she seemed to see this as an annoyance more than anything else.
After a few cigarettes and a bottle of Carlsberg (it’s always a good sign when a girl likes her beer), she was properly relaxed. I don’t think there’s much point in taking photographs of sober women – they are too shy and reserved to show off how pretty they are, and if you try to take their picture they’ll hide behind a menu or turn their heads away, even though they’re flattered. Christmas was shy as well – but soon she was quite comfortable and ready to peacock.
I took quite a few pictures. I had expected to just do candids but she started posing. After a while she started taking off her clothes and asked me to keep shooting, and so I did (who was I to argue?). I had planned on taking some good shots of pretty women that night, but I really had no idea. Next time though, I’ll make sure I’m using the focus properly.
Christmas has a boyfriend, a Sri Lankan who wants to marry her and pull her away from this life. Unfortunately, he is just too afraid to man up and tell his father he wants to marry a young mother. I told her that her boyfriend has no balls and explained to her the concept of the Mama’s Boy, a great and recurring curse in Sri Lanka. While she did not like me saying that he had no balls, she very much agreed that he lacked them.
The next morning, I put some pictures of Christmas up on Facebook. The most asked question was why had she chosen to become a hooker? One does not think of a doctor making a choice like that.
But then, one does not normally think that behind a tough-as-nails hooker is likely a small and vulnerable child. One does not normally think of a young single mother abandoned by their husband or boyfriends to raise their child alone, of women who will do whatever they must to protect and nurture their children.
Christmas is just one of many women in Sri Lanka who have travelled across the world, risked their lives daily to work a hard and unpleasant job, and must hide from law enforcement that punishes them and a society that preys on them in private and scorns them in public.
The drive, strength, and self sacrifice that Christmas has to do all this for the sake of her child, is something that I in my privileged, Man-Boy life simply cannot understand. It is superhuman to me. It’s scary. Christmas is not just a hooker, an immigrant, a mother, or a failed career in medicine.
Christmas is a force of nature.