COLOMBO, SRI LANKA – Marry, a Sri Lankan woman who guesses she is in her 40s, is a prostitute in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital.
Marry knows little about herself. She does not have a birth certificate or a National Identity Card, a compulsory document for all adults here that must be carried at all times. So she says she made up her own name and guesses she is around 40.
“I do not know from where I am, who my parents are, even my name,” she says.
She can speak both Sinhala and Tamil, the official languages of Sri Lanka, as well as English. Because she knows Tamil best, she guesses her ethnicity must be Tamil, but she has no way of knowing.
Marry says that the earliest memory she has is working as a servant in a rich family’s bungalow when she was 10 or 12. But a few months later she reached puberty, and her employer started mistreating her.
“I can remember that lady did not give enough food for me,” she says. “I started to eat whatever I stole from them. Because of that, she started to hit and punish me every day. Finally, I decided to [leave] that bungalow.”
Marry starts to cry, then begins to speak in English.
“My story started from the date which I came out [of] that bungalow,” she says. “I met that heartless man at the bus stand around 6 in the evening.”
She says that at first, he treated her kindly.
“I could not remember the name of that man,” she says. “He came to me and talk to me nicely. He promised to help me to find a job in Colombo. He asked me to come with him, and both of us got onto a bus. After a one-hour journey, we got down [off] the bus and went to a small room around 8 o’clock at night. First, he gave me some food.”
But then Marry says there was a sudden change in his demeanor.
“He raped me three times in that miserable night,” she says loudly.
She says he took her the rest of the way to Colombo the following morning and introduced her to a place where he said she would be able to get a job. The people there gave her a new dress, soap, powder and perfume. She says she was happy and stayed there.
But after two days, she realized that the place was a brothel where prostitutes worked. She says she had nowhere else to go, so she became a prostitute too.
“I started to work as a prostitute when I was very young,” she says. “If I explain my whole story, it will take at least two days.”
She says she worked as a prostitute in brothels throughout the city.
“I was there for [a] few years,” she says. “With the support of my customers, I changed the places [a] few times.”
She says she had many run-ins with the police, as prostitution is illegal in Sri Lanka.
“I could not remember the