All in a day’s work: The 16-year old sex-worker

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

The life of a startup guy is a lot like living the life of Alice as she wades through Wonderland (“I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.” — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll)

Through my venture which is focused on community creation and discovery, I have collaborated with the local Rotary Club for the betterment of women living with HIV and those at high-risk of contracting HIV. Basically sex-workers — past and present.

I was at one such community center explaining these women how CareSpace could help in their daily lives and how their larger community could help as they battle potential HIV infection along with a life interspersed with significant abuse and violence.

As their stories started reaching me in parts — some exploitation here, some cop cruelty there — a sorry picture started emerging from their broken pieces. Nevertheless, feigning as much nonchalance as I could, I moved around trying to make sure all these women were able to get a good hang of the app. Until I noticed two young girls hiding behind their relatively older counterparts. And one of them had a strange, faraway look in her eyes even though she was actually looking at me almost the whole time.

The coordinator casually informed as she sensed my curiosity, “She is 16, but trained to say 18 if anyone asks”.

“Of course”, I muttered.

“She has to serve at least 6 clients a day, 25 days a month”.

I closed my eyes.

“That’s 1800 in one year”, I had started talking to myself now. “At the age of 16…”. “Why?”

People around me were still talking but by now I had gone into deep freeze. Numbed.

“Almost 2000 sexual encounters in 12 months. Majority of them forced. She started at 15…”.

I took a sip of water and just sat down.

And her gaze had started making sense now. I was beginning to imagine the sheer hatred she would have for probably the entire male population — me included. I was obviously aware of the parallel hellish worlds through books and movies, but I had not anticipated what it would feel like to fly so close to the dark side.

“Sir today technology is solving so many problems, isn’t it?”, someone asked.

I opened my eyes.

A few words sprung up in my periphery as if written on those faded yellow walls — Blockchain, Logistics-tech, Edutech, FinTech, retro photo filters, driverless cars (Maybe Bitcoin also made it to the list. Or maybe not.)

I looked at those haunting eyes again, and my thoughts went back to Alice -

One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter…(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll)