Sex for food

The financial crisis touches us all in different ways. Job losses, mounting personal debts and cancelled holidays are all part of the reality for the year ahead.
For Argentina’s poor, the reality is even starker. Kids busking at red lights or juggling on the metro is common enough. People going through the rubbish (known as ‘cartoneros’) has also become a part of daily life since the country’s own, private financial implosion at the end of 2001.
Statistics published recently suggested poverty figures had crept back up to the levels they were just before the last crisis: i.e. around 11.8 million people (around 32% of the population).
Numbers are easy to ignore though. Less simple to pass over is a news item that I saw in the local La Nacion newspaper today. Apparently, children as young as eight years old are prostituting themselves for food.
The case involves up to 200 children between eight and thirteen years old, who sell themselves for sex in Buenos Aires’ Central Market. In exchange, their clients (other shoppers) provide them with something to eat.
Sofía Kordecki, who’s responsible for child rights for the local municipality, admits that the problem is difficult to contain.
It’s harder still without the cooperation of the unions operating in the market. “They won’t admit the need to work with consumers [in the market]”, she says.
“What’s clear is that the children won’t prostitute themselves if there are no clients”, she adds.