‘I once made clothes for M&S…now I’m selling my body to make ends meet’

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The police are aware of the operation. But Nayandini Silva, the madam of the brothel, regularly gives the local station large sums of rupees to pay their monthly expenses, from electricity to restaurant bills. Sometimes staff are forced to have sex with police officers.

According to Ms Silva, the number of customers has dropped, despite the increase in the number of women working in the industry, due to the economic crisis. However, the establishment still attracts around 10 customers a day, usually upper-class men in the country.

Pushpakumari Jayakody is the most talkative of the women working at the brothel and happily rattles off a list of her customers.

“Recently we had a famous mafia member in Colombo and I got to see all his gunshot wounds. I had doctors, lawyers and even reverends,” the 21-year-old said.

“There’s this one old teacher and he can barely walk, but every time he comes he pays to hang out with all the girls at once.”

However, the dangers are obvious. Another of his colleagues claims that many women have been assaulted or robbed by their clients. A round, gaping hole in the front door of the brothel is blamed on an attack by the owner of a rival brothel.

The deteriorating economic situation of women also encourages them to have unprotected sex at the request of their customers, while some say they exchange sex for food with local traders when the brothel is quiet.

Despite such desperation, Sri Lanka has yet to hit rock bottom. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the country’s new prime minister, has warned citizens to prepare for the “toughest months of their lives” – food, fuel and medicine prices are set to rise further.

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