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What Natasha does on the bed in the dingy room with flaking orange paint so shames her she cannot bring herself to use the word. She calls it "so and so" and sells it here from midday to midnight, six days a week. She tries to forget the very good days. Some suck you up and leave red marks.
Three years ago she won two beauty contests and was runner-up in another two, including Miss Best Legs, on Nicaragua's impoverished Caribbean coast. With dreams of modelling she boarded a bus for the distant capital, Managua. But Nicaragua has not fully recovered from its s war and remains the second-poorest country in the Americas after Haiti. Economic necessity kills many dreams. The days pass in a miasma of beer, sweat and perfume.
Not quite, it turns out. There is an even worse alternative: Two months ago police raids shut brothels across the city, expelled clients and sent sex workers home. The leftwing Sandinista government billed the crackdown as a socially progressive effort to protect women from exploitation. The would-be beneficiaries did not see it that way.
Their work, however ghastly, was a ticket out of poverty. Emerging from the shadows of their trade, they went public and mounted an unprecedented media campaign to overturn the ban. Astonished by the protests, the authorities relented and within a week the women were back at work. The Managua-based Central American Health Institute, a non-governmental organisation which funds medical treatment and disease prevention and is known by its Spanish initials ICAS, welcomed the end of the crackdown.
Profiting from the earnings of prostitution is illegal but authorities have long turned a blind eye to the bars, massage parlours and strip clubs which employ most of the city's estimated 1, sex workers. Traders wander in, hawking snacks, baby clothes and pirated DVDs. Everything is for sale, including the waitresses who provide "servicios" in the seven bedrooms adjacent to the bar.