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Dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt, with shoulder-length black hair and wearing no makeup, year-old Saida not her real name looked ordinary enough. But in this highly conservative society, she has sex with men for money, sometimes several times a night.
She has been a prostitute for six years, since the day her mother made a deal with a local pimp. A man almost 30 years old was waiting for me. He attacked me right away. I knew nothing; I felt only pain. According to Saida, she was left alone with the man for half a day before being brought home.
The old woman came again ten days later and took me back to that house. After that I started going on my own and getting money from rich people. Saida is now quite familiar with the world of prostitution, and accepts it as her lot in life. She said she sometimes services five customers in one night, and has some regular clients, although she prefers to have a steady stream of new ones. Saida said that she charges from 1, to 2, afghani per night, between 20 and 50 US dollars.
Statistics are scattered, and few solid figures exist. But since the fall of the Taliban regime in late , prostitution has become, if not more widespread, at least more open. A police official in the northern province of Jowzjan, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that according to official figures, 2, families in his province alone had resorted to prostitution over the past 10 years.
The true figure is likely much higher. In many cases, prostitution becomes a hereditary trade, passed on from mother to daughter. The Taliban strictly controlled sexual activity, meting out harsh punishments for extra-marital relations and adultery.