TEENAGE prostitution in Fiji is close to spiralling out of control, with a new breed of girls choosing to offer casual sex in return for quick cash to buy "luxury" items.
While many young prostitutes are desperate - including street kids, teenage mothers or those from very poor backgrounds - The Fiji Times found a new trend emerging.
The trend is the female teenage prostitute - charging anywhere between $80 to $100 a client - who only operates as a sex worker when in need of cash for fashionable clothes, cigarettes, alcohol or other "luxury" items.
Last Thursday night, several teenagers admitted to prostituting themselves to feed consumer habits, saying their own families were not aware they traded time with their bodies for cash.
"Our parents don't even know we are here. They just know we're with friends. I don't come here every night. It's only if I see something I like at the shops, like a shoe, dress or bag," said one 18-year-old who wished to remain unnamed.
"I spend everything I get on cigarettes and drinks," added her 17-year-old friend, who revealed that her deceased mother was also a sex worker. This teenager said she first began sneaking out of the house to "do bad things" when she was 13.
"I now live with an aunt and uncle but they let me do my thing. I have a few other family members who also do this work so I am quite comfortable when I come out at night," she said.
Two 17-year-olds said they had been sexually active since hitting the nightclub scene at the age of 13. "When I was in school there were other girls involved and we had clients even bring us lunch to school," said one of the girls.
Many of the girls know each other either because they lived in the same neighbourhood or attended the same school or neighbouring schools.
As The Fiji Times spoke to a few of the teenagers, several cars stopped to pick up girls one at a time. When asked about the dangers and risks involved, the girls said they practiced safe sex but "loved drunk clients".
"Oh, they are the best," two of the girls cooed. That is where we can get the most money. We either lock them in the bathroom when they go to change and take off with their money. Or sometimes they pass out before they do anything".
The teenagers don't believe that they are doing anything wrong.
"We go to church too you know. I have to go with my family. They don't know I am here (on the street), so it's as long as I get home in good time," she said.
But the rise in casual sex workers has not made too much of a dent on the permanently homeless teenage girls on the street that night.
One 15-year-old said it was a bread-and-butter issue.
"We have long-term partners who are also street kids. At night we both go out. He goes to make his money, I go to make my money. We just have to be understanding because we need to survive."
She said it was the same for "some other girls who are single mothers, or are married, or from poor families. They have understanding families. It's a bread-and-butter issue here."
One girl pointed out that each girl had a sad story - whether it was parental neglect or shattered lives through poverty, broken families or lost innocence.
During the course of the night, four male youths walked by, handing the girls pamphlets titled 'How to Become a Christian'.
The girls said they encountered many prayer groups throughout the night.
"The boys come every week, they are from a church in Valelevu. Some church women also come and we sit down and pray," one of the girls explained.
* Pick up a copy of The Sunday Times tomorrow for a special look behind the rise in male prostitution.