Bright young mum Candy has found a way to earn three times the average monthly wage in a single night.
That’s no easy achievement in the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean country so struck by poverty a third of its population lives on less than $1.75 a day.
Candy, 17, has to work to support her infant son and other relatives she’s lived with since she ran away from home to escape her abusive grandmother when she was just 11, news.com.au reported.
She’s secured an arrangement of $500 for five hours of work. And to get that $500, the teenager will have to spend five hours having sex with a 76-year-old Swiss tourist, one of a growing number of European and American tourists flocking to the Dominican Republic to live out their illicit fantasies with underage girls and boys.
In his report, which airs on Dateline on SBS tonight, reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy heads to the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, which is drawing international tourists in record numbers — including those with nefarious intentions with children as young as 13.
Candy was 14 when she became a sex worker, servicing mostly older, male tourists.
While prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic — it’s said to have one of the highest prostitution rates in the world, per capita of the population — sex under the age of 18 is not.
Despite this, one in four Dominican sex workers is believed to be under the legal age.
Aside from the exquisite beaches, endless sunshine and vibrant Caribbean culture, this is also what’s drawing tourists in record-high numbers to the island nation.
But this is not the tropical paradise’s dirty secret, as it’s barely a secret at all. In Santo Domingo, and especially its most popular resort, Boca Chica, Guru-Murthy finds young boys and girls out and about in public areas from 10am, soliciting older, male international tourists right under the noses of police too corrupt to care.
Guru-Murthy speaks to a number of young sex workers, many who are forced into the streets to escape poverty and abusive homes.
“Their faces look so young,” Guru-Murthy says.
“You couldn’t possibly mistake them for grown-ups. And any man who wants to pay them to have sex is a child abuser.”
Supiro was just a boy when he started having sex with male tourists for money and now he helps young people being similarly exploited, or at risk of it.
“The majority come for sex,” he tells Dateline.
“They want to try a Dominican boy, a young boy. In their country, they can’t do that. They can live out their fantasy here.”
Another young man, Chulo, works as a procurer for sex tourists and keeps a cut of the money they pay.
He says he gets no trouble from the police.
“They know I’m only surviving,” Chulo says.
He says people are so poor, they do what they can to get by.
“People know there’s money in Boca Chica,” he says. “And there’s little they won’t do for it.”
Chulo says he was once offered $560 by an Italian tourist who wanted to have sex with a virgin.
This is a system of exploitation that relies on tourists with a perverse sexual appetite for children and children so disadvantaged they have little choice but to relent.
Guru-Murthy also speaks to two foreign tourists with strong opinions on the exchange of sex and money in the Dominican Republic.
The reporter asks one man his thoughts on “sleazy tourists” and the man appears to take exception to the question.
He denies Dominicans are being exploited.
“It’s a poor country. People need to eat, you understand that?” he tells Guru-Murthy.
“The tourists being the chica (female sex workers) to lunch to have a good meal. They’re happy. You know how much they can make a day?
“If you stop the sex here, it will be empty.”
During SBS’ time in Santo Domingo, the $500 deal Candy hustled with the older Swiss client falls through.
Desperate for nappies for her baby, she is forced to the street at night, where she and another girl agree to have sex with a foreign tourist for just $15 each.
Towards the end of the program, she reveals to Guru-Murthy her next big plan to earn money in the tough and dangerous city, which offers few opportunities to young women — except to give up their bodies and childhoods for international tourists who have travelled there for both.