GUYANA: Increased rates of “Survival Sex”… due to COVID-19 – By Akola Thompson

In these situations where persons are increasingly becoming impoverished and vulnerable to violence, many are looking for avenues to survive the realities they face. One such avenue that has seen increased rates of participation is that of survival sex. In Guyana, the topic of survival sex often comes up within the context of Venezuelan migrants as lack of job access and security resulted in many participating in this so as to support themselves and their families. It has however, been a common practice within Guyana.

Survival sex is a form of sex trade wherein a person would trade their bodies to meet their immediate needs. For instance, the economic impacts of the pandemic matched with the lack of social housing, inadequate welfare policies and assistance have resulted in a boom of homelessness as many are unable to continue affording rent and home payments. Landlords aware of these vulnerabilities often exploit them by asking persons, women in particular, to give them sex in exchange for the waiving of rental fees. Facing the threat of eviction with no means to secure alternative housing, women often engage in survival sex in order to remain housed. Survival sex is not necessarily restricted to women though as many men and children unable to find reliable and safe ways to earn money would engage in this practice in order to gain food, clothing and other essentials.

The common drivers behind survival sex are the presence of poverty and abuse within their environments. Many young persons experience homelessness because they have either been kicked out from their homes, dwindling finances of the family or they chose to run away in order to escape abusive home environments. When on the streets, children quickly realize that they would have to commoditize their bodies in order to survive as clothing food and shelters are things that are not guaranteed for them. Their age matched with the history of sexual violence many of them might have, unfortunately makes them prime targets for sexual predators looking to exploit.

Survival sex can be extremely risky as it often involves persons being alone with those who are exploiting them. This of course can make them more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, sexual trafficking and other forms of exploitation as persons begin to see them as being expendable given their socioeconomic status.

It must be understood that those who turn to survival sex do as a final act of desperation as failure to trade their bodies can result in them being homeless, starving and lacking other essentials. Unfortunately though, there is a very puritanical view of survival sex that is often taken. If the same effort that goes into denigrating and judging persons who are trying to survive were to go instead towards providing them with the support they need, very few persons would be forced to engage in the practice. The challenges faced by women, girls and other vulnerable populations as it relates to survival sex need to be adequately dealt with through the provision of gender specific support and services. Moral outrage without tangential support will not do any of us any good.

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  • WIC  On 08/30/2021 at 4:18 pm

    So sorry to learn that such behavior now prevails in Guyana. There was a time when among the healthy and perhaps the not so healthy, sex was considered an Olympic sport without medals being awarded and economic status, ethnicity or marital status not being barriers to participating. As Brindley Benn(if you don’t know who that was, you aren’t familiar with Guyana’s modern history), used to say “Hold on, things will change”. He was so right, although things haven’t changed in the direction he had in mind.

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