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She rises, disheveled, out of her makeshift mattress and idly puts her clothes on. He hands her money. No words are exchanged as he leaves. This is not a scene from a movie or an excerpt from a novel, but rather a reality experienced by many Egyptian women who turn to prostitution as a source of income. Abeer would pick up clients either at the supermarket she works in or from the streets she lives around the area she lives in. She was involved in a physical relationship with a Christian man, one whom she could not marry.
She spent money on him only to find that he married his cousin in Lebanon. But Nashaat says women forced into prostitution should be referred to as trafficked, and not sex working. She said that most women forced to turn to prostitution either have children with school needs or have to take care of an elderly or sick member of the family. Helen Rizzo, chair of the department of sociology, Egyptology and anthropology, highlighted how Egyptian law leaves free-willing sex workers unprotected within a combination of exploitative legislation, neglectful government and an antagonistic society.
Nashaat says that if there is a proof of cash exchange for sex, the man involved is not prosecuted, but rather acts as a witness for the prosecution. Although CEWLA is advocating for increased protection of their right, it is only permitted to offer help to any prosecuted sex worker only if it is determined that they were trafficked into prostitution. Research and data about sex trafficking are hard to come by in Egypt largely due to institutionalized social barriers.
In the meantime, the government is tracking legal loopholes used by traffickers to circumvent current anti-prostitution laws. This loophole has been particularly popular among wealthy Arab men coming to Egypt to look for temporary wives — an issue cited in the US State Department reports. Certain districts in 6th of October, such as Hawamdiya, Badrashin and Abu al Nomors, have transformed into active sites for trafficking. Despite such measures, the government is facing an uphill battle to combat trafficking and stamp out prostitution rings.
The unemployment rate to just shy of 12 percent in August this year, but with inflation many young men and women find marriage costs prohibitive. Some then turn to having extra-marital sex, fueling the growth of the underground prostitution industry. She said that even if the government provided sex workers with other types of work, prostitution will never disappear entirely, which is why people within the profession should have proper access to services.