- Norberto Paredes @norbertparedes
- BBC World News
“As a child I always dreamed of being a teacher, but I ended up as a prostitute like my mother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother.”
Karina Núñez is the fourth generation of a family of Uruguayan sex workers and remembers her childhood as a time full of hardships.
“It happened during the civic-military dictatorship in Uruguay and the man who took my mother from her pimp, decided to raise me as his own daughter,” he says in an interview with BBC Mundo.
“Then he became a political prisoner and our life changed completely: my mother had to go back to sex work.”
Although his childhood was not easy and he sums it up in a mixture of poverty, uncertainty and a lot of prostitutionToday he tells that he has “broken chains”.
And yes it has. She has become one of the most prominent union leaders in the union in Uruguay.
In addition to defending the rights of women and sex workers, Karina fights against the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.
In the same way, “with the help of other women,” she managed to get her daughter, Valeska, to become the first in her family to go to college and that fills her with pride. But the road was not easy.
“When you are born in the prostitution environment, getting out of there is very difficult.”
What follows is his story.
The degree of stigmatization towards my way of earning a living generated circles that were not very conducive to me to develop. And it also made in a time of my life apathy towards society to build my days.
Having been sexually exploited I lived it for a long time as something heroic. Many years later, with a lot of pain, I could understand that there is nothing heroic about it. “
I always thought that a it had to be used for only one And, well, if something happened to you, it was because you had done something wrong and you had to put up with it.
You made a bad decision and now hold on.
I did not perceive that the things that happened to me were the product of all that vulnerability that I had been carrying already in the fourth generation of a family of sex workers.
The process of being sexually exploited was lived for a long time as something heroic.
Many years later, with much pain, I could understand that There is nothing heroic about being sexually exploited.
Now I see it as a tragic event in my life and a trigger for the strength that I have.
This understanding helped me not to remain in the role of victim and to strengthen myself so that I could later free other colleagues from those processes of silence, anguish and resignation.
Each person has a way of perceiving their place of comfort or their place of risk in different ways.
For those of us who grew up in spaces offering sexual services and in where talking about sexual services comes naturally, it is obvious that we are not going to look for another space.
And we passed the pregnancies dI enter a hostel with loud, loud music, when our children come out of the womb they will not feel comfortable with a Mozart because it is not the spacein which they grew up intrauterinamente.
“I just wanted to be the best version of Karina”
When Karina Nuñez understood that He did not want his daughter to follow his path, nor that of her grandmother or her great-grandmother, When he understood, after experiencing firsthand, the vulnerability of sex workers and everything they are exposed to day after day, he wanted to fight.
As I knocked on doors and demanded the rights of my colleagues, they recognized me as a reliable voice.
In 1999, I denounced a trafficking ring that took two girls to Italy and I received a beating from nine network pimps who left me in an ICU for 11 days (…) but it was worth it. ”
They were the ones who gave me the title of trade unionist and I don’t know what else, but I really just wanted to be the best version of Karina.
In 1999, I denounced a trafficking network that took two gurisas (girls) to Italy and that is why I got beaten up by nine pimps from the network that They left 11 days in an intensive care unit and it took three months for him to be able to walk again.
Then when I could do it again, with the help of crutches, I am back to the complaints room. I had to wait seven years for them to listen to me and prosecute the guard who had sold me to the network.
But today I can say that all that was worth it.
“Moral division between the holy woman and the whore”
In Uruguay, prostitution is a regulated activity since 2002 and is currently one of the Latin American nations with the most liberal laws in this regard.
In many countries in the region there are still loopholes on sex work and in others it is completely illegal.
Karina thinks that this has a lot to do with moral precepts “that we have been carrying, from the Bible and from the New Testament.”
“There is a moral division between the holy woman and the whore woman.”
Although she considers herself a “popular feminist,” she admits that it took her a long time to identify as such.
“And yet I find it difficult to be recognized as a feminist. I think that in Latin America there has to be an open-ended debate about sex work and about the autonomy of bodies. ”
“If the precept that all female bodies are theirs is truly real, why then are the bodies of women who consciously and freely decide to offer sexual services not theirs? Why do they have to be tutored by other women or by the state? “
The three stages of prostitution
According to Karina Núñez, most prostitutes go through three stages and this conclusion is drawn after having interviewed about two thousand sex workers.
He had them fill out a form and then focused on the 313 that were most complete.
Their findings were published in the book “The being behind a productive vagina”, which is now in its third edition.
And so he sums them up for BBC Mundo.
The first stage is prostitution. When I wrote the book, in 2008, prostitution for me was the offering of sexual services.
Later I learned that when you do it before the age of 18 it is sexual exploitation and not a form of work.
It is an aberrant violation of the rights of children.
The second is that of prostitution. Here the woman is empowered, it is the moment of the empowerment of the vagina, because previously you agreed to have your body and your vagina penetrated in many, various ways. As they wish.
But at this stage, you put a price on that form and you put a limit on the service offers.
And in Uruguay, where prostitution is regulated, to be a sex worker we acquire the legal category of sex workers when we go to the doctor and we make a medical visit book.
There we went to a third stage.
But, in the studio hallé that when we studied the educational factors of the companions we found that those who had not finished primary school or the school cycle spent their entire lives as a prostitute.
They could enter or exit the offer of sexual services, but they spent their lives as prostitutes. They offered sexual services without medical attention and without having sanitary controls.
When the partners had some degree of study, they spent between 10 or 15 years in the offer of sexual services.
The uneducated comrades gave birth to daughters who were sex workers or in situations of sexual exploitation and sons who were engaged in pimping or some other form of trafficking.
And the companions who had high studies, neither their sons nor their daughters had ties to these activities.
“His cleaners, his sperm vessels and his caretakers”
Karina says that sex workers are warrior women, with a lot of courage.
The man could always use the woman for whatever was sung to him for nothing. ”
“Man could always use the woman for what is sung in exchange for nothing and the fact that the workers charge them for doing what they are supposed to do seems to me to be an important symbol of struggle, “he says.
“Otherwise, we are still women who have to wait for a man to choose them to be the mothers of his children, to be his cleaners, his sperm vessels and his caretakers when they grow old or during the old age of their relatives. Everything. for free”.
Being a “poor sex worker,” Karina says that her daughter actually making it to college was not something she decided on.
“It’s not those kinds of things you can decide when you’re poor,” he says.
“Actually, I was accompanied by other women who, lovingly, showed me another perspective. They helped me see that I could make my daughters decide or not to be sex workers and not naturalize them as girls in the exercise of sex work.”
“A pride that does not fit in my chest”
One of the biggest challenges in making it possible was building a new stereotype of what it means to be a mom.
“My way of taking care of my daughters was by having them with me in the inn, I took care of them myself. I watched them, I knew who they had ties to, who visited them, etc.”, she says.
“If I left them in the care of someone else, the same thing that happened to me was going to happen. My mother paid to take care of me, but when she left it was another world. ”
My way of taking care of my daughters was having them with me in the inn, I took care of them myself. He watched them, knew with whom they had ties, who visited them, etc. “.
Karina takes credit for herself by assuring that the one she has the most is her daughter and her ability to “develop and exploit her intelligence.”
Still, he doesn’t hide the “enormous” satisfaction he feels.
“My daughter is the first of four generations of prostitutes to go to college and pride does not fit in my chest.”
Although during the process of breaking chains, Karina became a respected feminist voice and an example for many in Uruguay, she says there is still much to do.
For now, it demands the approval of a basic income for sex workers due to the covid-19 pandemic.
“With that we can achieve at least that they can pay for their homes. We have met many colleagues who unfortunately they are homeless for not being able to pay their rents, “he explains.
“Through solidarity we have managed to support 330 companions with monthly baskets since March. These contain clothing, powdered milk and medical supplements, because several suffer from oncological diseases or diabetes.”
“We have achieved all this with the help of the Uruguayan people, since the authorities have not had any response.”
Karina is also working on a new book “Manual de una buena puta”, a series of stories from her own experiences, which is scheduled for publication next year and with which she intends to continue her struggle.
“Why do you think I fight? Why do I get paid to do it? Because I like to be in front of the camera?”, Are some of the questions that the now writer asks herself in her new work.
“Actually, do you know why I fight? Because if I don’t, someone else will. But not based on my needs, but theirs. But not with my perspectives, but theirs. But not for my dignity, if not for their privileges“, she answers herself.
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