Photographers' Blog

Down and dirty English

WARNING: SEXUAL CONTENT

Belo Horizonte, Brazil

By Pilar Olivares

As I went chasing after “ladies of the night” (who sometimes work in the daytime too) I discovered that some of them are proud to be sex workers, almost too proud to be bothered by someone like me – a photographer looking for a good story.

I was on an assignment to take pictures of a group of prostitutes who are taking English classes once a week in preparation for the World Cup. They hope these lessons will help them communicate better with soccer fans who might use their services when they come to Brazil.

Of all my subjects, the most elusive character to photograph was Cida Vieira, the president of the Association of Prostitutes of Minas Gerais (APROSMIG), based in the southeastern Brazilian state whose capital is Belo Horizonte.

Before our first meeting I spent a whole day at the APROSMIG office just waiting for her to appear. While I was there, I saw quite a bit of activity in the small room they rent as office space, but it was mostly from women looking for condoms. They would enter, open their plastic bags, and the secretary would drop in a fistful of the little packets.

Brazilian sex worker Laura Maria do Espirito Santo (R), holds packets of condoms as she and Cida da Silva, both members of the Association of Prostitutes of Minas Gerais, attend English classes in Belo Horizonte, May 12, 2014. A group of sex workers are taking English classes to better attend to soccer fans during the 2014 World Cup. Picture taken May 12, 2014. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares (BRAZIL)

Some of the women would walk out without muttering a word after signing a paper for what they received. Others, however, would stay a while to tell anecdotes, laughing and describing the sexual fantasies of their clients in some detail.

From man into woman

By Adnan Abidi

Hardeep Singh, a father of two, leaves his home in west Delhi every day at around 2 p.m. Dressed in a pair of light trousers and a shirt, he reaches a local charity, where he undresses to reveal his female clothes underneath and transforms into Seema.

The 33 year old is a male-to-female transgender, or “hijra”, as they are known in India. Living with two identities, by day, he is a married family man and by night, a hijra sex worker.

With no legal recognition in India, transgenders like Seema have little choice but to turn to prostitution to earn a living, which is something she hides even from her family.

Repressed fear in a transgendered world

“Even Obama cares about us! The last time a gay leader was assassinated in Uganda, Obama asked [President] Pepe [Lobo] to protect us and investigate the crimes against us in Honduras,” says Bessy, a 31 year-old transsexual who does volunteer social work with the homosexual community during the day. For the last 11 years, Bessy has also been working nights as a prostitute on the streets.

Transgender Bessy, 31, puts on make up in Tegucigalpa March 10, 2011. According to leaders of LGBT organizations (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders), 34 people have been murdered in the last 18 months. The U.S. embassy and United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have requested the government to investigate the murders and safeguard the rights of the LGBT community, local media reported. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Honduran government sources have documented the assassination of 34 gays, transvestites, and transsexuals in the past 18 months. Some of them were killed with great sadism and cruelty. Three days before Christmas, murderers tied Lady Oscar to a chair and set fire to her. A week earlier the body of Luis Hernandez was found in a ditch, her face beaten until it was unrecognizable.

I meet them in the basement of a pool hall located in a dangerous neighborhood of Tegucigalpa. There, along narrow and dark stairways, are several rooms where Bessy, Patricia and Tiffany live.

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