Somaliland: Aisha*, "I am addicted to khat and still on the market"

HARGEISA, 07 October2021 (PLUSNEWS) - Aisha*, 24, lives in Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland in northwestern Somalia, where she puts food on the table for herself and her child by trading sex for money and khat, a herbal stimulant. Aisha told IRIN/PlusNews about her life during a conversation frequently interrupted by customers calling to make appointments.
"When I was younger I got married in Burao [a town 340km east of Hargeisa] and had two children, but I did not get along with my mother-in-law - we quarrelled so much that I asked my husband to divorce me and left with the kids.

"When I moved to Hargeisa I couldn't find any work or a way to feed my kids ... one of my children got diarrhoea and died.

"I met some girls who were sex workers and they said it was an easy way to make a living. The first time my friends introduced me to a man he gave me some gifts for the children; he also gave me khat to chew. That was four years ago - now I am addicted to khat and still on the market.

"I normally call the men when I need khat, or they call me to make appointments with me on the phone. Most of my customers are hotel workers, telecom executives, businessmen - even one minister [of religion]!

"The best time for business is the end of the month, when people have been paid and come to spend their money with me. Sometimes I even sleep with them on credit and they pay me when they get their salary.

"I try to use condoms, but if they don't have one and I have run out, then I will do it without one. I know about HIV, and recently when I got sick I thought I had it, but the test said I was negative.

"Sometimes the work can be dangerous; recently I was picked up by a rich businessman in town, who took me to his house. When we got there he wanted to have anal sex, but I refused. He beat me up so badly that I was in bed for days.

"I would like to leave this work. If Allah gives me a chance, I'll change, but if not, I'll be doing this for ever."