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Sex for Bread in New Afghanistan & News Agencies

MAZAR-I-SHARIF — When Fatima returned home after years of living as a
refugee, the teenage was aspiring to a promised better life in post-
Taliban Afghanistan. She has since turned to selling her body to make
a living.

"I had no other way but prostitution," the 19-year-old told Reuters
on Monday, May 19.

After returning from Iran, Fatima knocked every door in the northern
city of Mazar-i-Sharif in quest for a job, but in vain.

Desperate to sustain her mother, two sisters and young brother, she
eventually found no other option but prostitution.

Fatima now roams the streets every day, her face heavily painted with
all sorts of make-up, in search for clients.

"I get up early in the morning and wander around the city," she said,
dressed in tight blue jeans with a black veil pulled loosely over her

"My customers stop me and give me a lift and then we talk about the

Fatima is not alone.

According to RAWA, an independent organization of Afghan women,
prostitution has become widespread in conservative Afghanistan since
the 2001 US ouster of Taliban.

In the northern regions, more and more young women are turning to sex

Prostitution is even taking formal root, with brothels operating and
pimps managing prostitutes openly in some cities.

Though "fornication" is a charge that carries a penalty of from 5 to
15 years in jail, bribes usually take care of unwanted police
attention to the trade.


Nasrin, a 24-year-old who lives in the northern city of Qhunduz, says
prostitution was the legacy she bequeathed from her mother.

"My father died in the civil war, my mum was a widow and I did not
know what she did for work," she explains.

"Later I understood she was a prostitute. One day she encouraged me
to have sex with a man who came to our house."

Nasrin is now quite familiar with the world of prostitution, having
sex with men for money sometimes several times a night.

"I really wanted to be a good lady and live with my husband, but now
everyone sees me as a prostitute," she sobbed.

"My life is spoiled."

Women's rights activists are concerned about the rising tide, and lay
the blame squarely with the government.

"Because of poverty, women are doing this," Malalai Usmani, head of
Balkh organization that defends women's rights, told Reuters.

"It is all because of poverty."

More than six years after the US ousted Taliban and installed a West-
backed government, Afghans still lack the very basics of life.

The country is so destitute and undeveloped that most inhabitants
have no central heating, electricity or running water.

According to the international policy think tank Senlis, more than 70
percent of Afghans are chronically malnourished, with less than a
quarter having access to safe drinking water.

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