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by Patrick T. Nohrden

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© 2010, Patrick T. Nohrden

Reprinted from Las Vegas Penny Press, January 10, 2010, Vol. 8, No. 3, Page 14.

I like to talk to prostitutes. This much overlooked segment of the community provides a wealth of information on social trends, economics, and culture. Despite the fact that Kuwait makes any sexual conduct between two people illegal unless it is between husband and wife, there are plenty of prostitutes here. Perhaps that is the reason. Prostitutes in Kuwait come from many places: the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, China, America, and even Kuwait. It is easiest for me to talk to the Chinese. Because I am not Chinese but I speak Chinese, the Chinese girls are curious about me, which gives us a chance to talk. Otherwise, most prostitutes are not willing to just chit chat, because time is money.

I really should not call them girls. Other than the fact that it is sexist, most of the Chinese ladies are in their early to mid-forties. Some are younger, and my guess is that some are older, but they all say they are thirty, except the younger ones of course. All of them have one thing in common; they have come to Kuwait to make money.

Most of them are recruited by people they already know who have done it before and have returned from the Gulf with a bank account full of money. Some are told that all they have to do is to date men, who will pay for that privilege. Once they are onboard, it is too late for them to back out.

With only two exceptions, the Chinese prostitutes with whom I have spoken have another thing in common; they have children. They are typically divorced, with the exception of one who told me that her husband died. China does not have any law that requires payment of alimony or even child support. The husband leaves to live with another, younger woman, and the single mother is faced with the ominous task of raising her child by herself. These women were all unemployed at the time they decided to come to Kuwait, and their parents are already dead or are also living in dire poverty. They hear about the prospect of making good money in places like Kuwait, Bahrain, or other Gulf states, and they see a way of paying the cost of raising their child in China. The women sell everything they have, including their home and furnishings, which allows them to scrape up enough money to buy a plane ticket to Guangzhou where they wait in a “halfway” house for their work visa for Kuwait or elsewhere.

While in the halfway house, those who do not have enough money for their visa and airfare to the Gulf practice their trade on the streets. This money is not as good as they expect to make in Kuwait. They also need to pay for their stay in the halfway house, which is not cheap. While there, they also watch “training films,” which is nothing more than pornography. Most of the women have never seen pornography, as it is illegal in China, and most have never seen or experienced much of what they have seen in the films. Many are surprised and scared, but they cannot change their mind. They have already committed; they have already sold all of their worldly possessions and their child is expecting that he or she will finally have what he needs.

The work visa is usually arranged between a “house boss” in Kuwait and an unscrupulous visa trader, a person who has a shell company who “hires” workers from overseas. The cost of the visa was about 250 Kuwaiti Dinars, or roughly $875, most of which goes into the pockets of the visa trader and the house boss. Recently, however, the Kuwait government imposed at 250 dinar deposit for all foreign workers, so the cost has doubled to $1750. This is for a 30-day visa. A 90-day visa will cost 900 dinars, or about $3,150.

After they are here, these new workers must pay 150 dinars ($525) every month to their house boss, as well as 250 dinars each month for a 30-day extension of their 30-day visa, which is the most common option due to the lack of funds of arriving workers. After awhile, they can convert their visa to a two-year residency for 2,500 dinars, or $8,750. They still must pay their house boss 150 dinars every month. This gives them a shared room with two or three other workers.

Once in country, they are shown the ropes by an experienced worker, one who has been here for awhile, who will introduce the new workers to clients for a split of the fee. This relationship only lasts until the new worker establishes her own clientele. They all work outside and conduct their business on a “call” basis and are very careful about whom they do business. They will not go with anybody until there has been an introduction. Being arrested means a mandatory six-month jail sentence for immoral conduct and deportation.

Every month, after the house boss and the visa renewal is paid, the workers go to the post office, exchange most of their money for renminbi (Chinese money), and send to China. This money will be used to pay for the basic needs of their children, their education, and, if they have a son, for his first house, which he will need in order to get married.

It is now nearly impossible for a Chinese woman to obtain a tourist visa for Kuwait. Americans and citizens of most European countries, as well as others, may obtain a tourist visa upon arrival in Kuwait at the airport for the cost of three dinars ($10.50). Sometimes, a hotel may obtain a visitor's visa or business visa for a Chinese person, but the chances are very slim if it is a woman under the age of 45.

This situation is not an indictment of Kuwait. There are prostitutes everywhere. Kuwait might be different in this matter because most of the prostitutes here do not have pimps are not addicted drugs. The reason the Chinese prostitutes are here is because of the money-plain and simple. China has no system in place for taking care of single mothers. When she becomes a single mother, if she does not already have a well-paying job, and most do not, she must rely on her parents to help her. Her parents are often not in the position to do that, or they have already died. Without child support, alimony, a good job, or any other source of income, the Chinese single mother faces few choices. She can beg, which will not produce enough income to pay for what her child needs, or she can go to Kuwait or another Gulf country where the money, compared to what is available in China, is an unbelievable windfall.

Most Chinese prostitutes will stay two years if they can avoid being caught for that long, although I have talked to some who have been here longer, one as long as four years. She has three children, of which two are illegal under China's one-family-one-child rule. Her husband left her years ago, her father is dead, and her mother is eighty years old. The oldest girl is twenty and attends a university. The other two live with relatives. On her own, she must pay for their education and buy her son a house. The only way that will happen is by living thousands of miles away in Kuwait and renting her body out to men for a fee.

These women know that they have a short time to make a lot of money. Their bodies will give out on them faster, and they will have health problems for the rest of their lives. But they will have ensured that their children have a future. China will not do that for them.