This story is about a 19-year old girl who suffered throughout her life. To her parents, she was nothing but a drunk mistake; a mistake they wouldn’t repeat even if the world came to an end. She raised herself with no-one’s help. Her parents were there physically, but they never played their roles as parents. They couldn’t stand her; all they did was get drunk, come back home and demand food. They took away so much from her that she never got the opportunity of going to school, to have friends to run around and play with. No parent wanted their kids to play with the kid who didn’t go to school: “She’ll be a bad influence on you!” is what they used to say.

One night, the girl was already tucked onto her tiny mattress next to her parents’ single bed. They lived in a one-room shack. Her parents weren’t around because, as always, alcohol came first to them and, at times, they forgot they had a child named Layla. When she was fast asleep, a grown man silently pushed the door open, knowing very well that they didn’t lock their door, not because they didn’t want to, but because they didn’t have a lock. He forced himself onto her, taking away the only thing she was left with, her dignity, something she was proud of, leaving her vulnerable and with no hope.

The man gave her a piece of himself. He left her with something she’d never forget either. He impregnated her and gave her HIV. Her parents didn’t believe her when she told them. They called her a liar, but the minute she told them she was pregnant, they beat her up to the extent that she lost her first and last child. She developed a hatred towards men and she wanted to get back at them and hurt them all. The only way for her to do this was to sell her body and spread the disease. A woman she met in town while begging for money on the streets introduced her to the life, fulfilling her goal. Layla was happy she was going to complete her mission and make money out of it too.

At first the job was hard for her, as she kept seeing the monster which is what she called him, but she kept reminding herself why she was doing what she was doing. “Stay focussed, baby girl!” Those words replayed themselves every time she thought of quitting. The money was good and she was now her parents’ child. They somehow now loved her, but deep down they knew they loved the money and not her. Her mom quit her job as a domestic worker and her dad left his job as a gardener because Layla was now bringing lots of money home. People in her community judged her, not knowing why she was doing that dirty work. She was hurt, vulnerable, seeking revenge, but they never cared.

One of her clients fell hard for her, not knowing how damaged she was. He gambled and went for her. He felt the need to protect her and he didn’t care how many guys she had slept with. That meant nothing to him as all he wanted was to wake up next to her every single morning for the rest of his life. Two years later, they got married and took care of themselves. Layla stopped selling herself and she forgave her parents who never stopped drinking. Her marriage was great. Her ex-client, now husband, loved her even though she couldn’t bear him children.

Sex workers are often judged and criticized left, right and centre, but nobody knows why they are doing what they’re doing and why they choose that kind of work. Never judge a book by its cover