Sex for gun debt - Girls forced into prostitution
— as crime lords demand payment for lost firearms
SHE is just 19 years old but plies her wares on the popular Port Henderson Road in St Catherine, popularly known as 'Back Road'.
Even though she may have been used and abused by countless types of men, a faint hint of innocence still lingers in her gaze.
At the advent of her puberty she attained an acceptable grade in the Grade Six Achievement Test and matriculated to a popular high school in Kingston, an unusual achievement for girls her age who live in impoverished communities.
Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that prostitution would be her lot in life as she was keeping apace of her classmates and gained accolades from teachers who taught her favourite subjects.
Her life took a terrible turn when her younger brother was arrested and charged by the police for illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The teenage boy was carrying out the dictates of the resident gang lord who ordered that young, impressionable teens should 'protect' the community from another rival gang that could invade at any moment.
On that fateful night the cops carried out an operation in the community and held her brother with a 9mm pistol.
"Him lucky him never dead. Couple day after him get bite the man dem page we a we yard and tell we say if we nuh find a money fi pay back fi di gun them a go kill we mother," the girl told the Sunday Observer.
According to the teenage prostitute, her mother was an avid churchgoer and was suffering from diabetes.
"My mother never hurt a fly. My brother just get caught up because of him friend dem. We don't have nothing. When him get hold by police we couldn't even pay a lawyer and then dem come wid dem long gun come say we haffi pay fi di gun weh police hold mi bredda wid," she said.
After pleas by the relatives of the arrested teen to the gang boss an ultimatum was handed down that by whatever means they had to pay for the gun.
This was her introduction to prostitution.
"It was a very hard thing to do, but I did have to do it to save everybody life. We couldn't make dem kill we mother and we know say dem serious because the same thing did happen to a family in the area and dem kill a old man one Sunday morning in front a everybody as him a go church," she said.
Police sources say a 9mm semi-automatic pistol sells on the street for $100,000 or more.
A revolver is a little bit cheaper and might sell for about $70,000. An assault rifle, in the mode of an AK-47 or M-16, fetches a price of up to $300,000, while a submachine gun can easily be had for $200,000.
Superintendent Victor Hamilton is assigned to the Mobile Reserves and has lived a life of fighting crime, working in volatile communities, like St Catherine North, which envelopes the old capital of Spanish Town.
"The gangs don't give up their guns. I can tell you about young girls who are selling their bodies to pay back for guns," Hamilton told the Sunday Observer. "It is a fact that if you lose the gun you will have to pay. One way or the other. Sisters do it for brothers; mothers do it for sons. Don't lose the guns, is their code."
His claim was corroborated by present head of the St Catherine North Police Division Senior Superintendent Anthony Castelle.
"It is a fact," said Castelle. "We have something called Violence Risk Assessment. Sometimes in those situations people have to be moved out of their communities because they will be killed for what they didn't do."
Superintendent Arthur Brown heads the East Kingston Police Division and could not counter the claim that gang lords demand payment for guns that have been seized by police or were lost by misadventure.
"It is not a joke, and not only confined to one community; it is an islandwide thing," Brown said.
But as the island grapples with an overwhelming crime wave, a young woman struggles with her morality. She has already paid her dues by finding the sum demanded by the gang for her brother's 'misdeeds', but is now stuck in the world of harlotry.
"I know nothing else," she told the Sunday Observer. "I try more than one time to stop but it seems I am hooked on this. People wouldn't understand, me done get caught already, might as well me just go on. Police, lawyer, doctor and bad man buy me and me done turn freak. Me get corrupt already... a just so it go."
Prostitutes on the Port Henderson Road in St Catherine.