Sunday, February 29, 2004
Mothers pimping their daughters for food
Maariv - Feb. 29, 2004
Mothers pimping their daughters for food Needy women "hiring out" their teen age daughters to produce market workers in return for vegetables. Welfare authorities are familiar with this shocking practice.
Volunteers of the "Elem" Youth in Distress non-profit organization thought they'd seen it all. At the Beer Sheva market, however, they were shocked to encounter a previously unheard of practice, mothers selling their daughters' bodies to Arab workers in return for market produce.
Down-and-out women come to the Beer Sheva market late at night to scrounge for some pumpkin or marrow. Lacking shekels, they offer an alternative form of payment, their teenage daughters. After providing sexual services in some dark alley, daughters and mothers disappear into the night laden with parcels of produce.
What are you doing here?
Last Thursday the writer joined one of Elem's patrols. At 1:00 a.m. the Elem mobile stress unit arrives at Beer Sheva's municipal market. A group of Arab workers are huddled around two small bonfires trying to keep warm. Two Russian-speaking women are standing nearby while the teenage daughter of one of them is talking to the workers in Hebrew.
Ori-Osnat Azulai, in charge of Elem's night volunteer group, identified the girl immediately. She called the girl by name and shot out of the car even before volunteer driver Ofer Artzi had time to brake. "What are you doing here?" she asked angrily.
"I'm here with my mother", replied the girl. The mother looked from daughter to Azulai and said nothing. Azulai grabbed the girl and dragged her to the car, which had in the meantime emptied.
Meanwhile Artzi drove the vehicle around the market, seeking other girls skulking in the shadows, waiting to turn a quick trick with whatever Arab worker will give them some fresh produce in return.
Several seconds later, a second girl appeared and hurried to a waiting cab, paid for by one of the workers. Meanwhile, her mother loaded parcels laden with vegetables into the trunk.
"What are you doing here?" repeated Azulai. "I came to shop with my mother", replied the girl. "But the market's closed", insisted Azulai. Without responding, the girl climbed into the cab, which sped off into the night, family and vegetables intact.
Esther Amar, Head of Beer Sheva's Social Welfare Department, agreed that this was indeed a shocking phenomenon but was unfortunately not a new one. ""Lately we are witnessing a serious increase in the numbers of youth in distress roaming the streets due to dire economic circumstances at home. Unfortunately, the government is unprepared financially to deal with these serious cases.
Amar added that a cornerstone laying ceremony was held recently for an emergency shelter for youth in distress, but said that the shelter would open only "in two to three years" from now. In a hurried combined effort by Elem and the welfare services, some of the market girls have recently been placed in the Zofia treatment facility for girls, near Gedera. "Children are inherently wonderful", says volunteer Schwartz, adding, "The problem is that we ruin them along the way".
Welfare services in the south, which, as a traditionally low socio-economic area, has been hardest hit by the prolonged recession, are familiar with teenage prostitution.
Maariv recently ran a story about the phenomenon of teenage girls renting their bodies for money, often to by basics like food and clothing that their families cannot afford.