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Madeleine, a 16 year-old prostitute, inside her tent with a young neighborhood friend. Image by Andre Lambertson. Haiti, There are many teenage sex workers now surviving in Port-Au-Prince. Image by Andre Lambertso. They pose under streetlights, where the men drinking kleren, cheap, homemade alcohol at makeshift bars, and the foreigners returning to Le Plaza Hotel can see them. Should a car pause, just long enough, along noisy Rue Capois, the main road that separates the sea of tents and tarps of the Champs de Mars camp from the hotel, the women approach, flirt, and proposition.
The teenagers who stand a few blocks away, on the dark corner by the Monsieur Henri Photo Studio, pose too. They lean against the fence, hips jutted out, their legs exposed by scanty pink shorts and skimpy dresses. But they look like little girls playing dress up, with their bright purple eye shadow, tinted hair, and glossy red lips. And they stay in the shadows, run from cars that linger too long, as if they at once want to be seen but at the same time want to make themselves invisible.
I feel embarrassed of what I am doing. I have no choice, I must accept what is going on, but it is not my will. But in the 16 months since, the number of girls, some as young as 8, who have been forced to have sex in order to survive has drastically increased. The situation will likely get worse as in late May, shortly after President Michel Martelly took office, police destroyed about makeshift tents in Delmas, leaving their occupants without anywhere else to go.
According to the International Organization of Migration, 25 percent of those in camps have been threatened with eviction. Many girls were orphaned when their parents died in the disaster, and were left to fend for themselves, often having sex with men in order to secure a place in a tent or under a tarp. The problem was exacerbated when organizations stopped distributing food in the camps. Nonetheless, the decision to stop food distribution left many girls without a way to eat, and they were forced to survive the only way they could see how, by trading sex for money or food in order to avoid starvation.
Her aunt has had five surgeries to remove various tumors from her body and is unable to work, so when organizations stopped distributing food, the family went hungry. Madeleine had been attending school before the earthquake, as her mother, who was a vegetable vendor and traveled between the countryside and Port-au-Prince, used to send money to pay for school. Madeleine had no vocational skills, and so when some girls from the camp told her she could make money as they did, working as a prostitute, she went with them.