Prostitution in the Philippines
A time for change
A Jesuit priest was asked to write the foreword of a book that deals with prostitution and human trafficking in the Philippines. He wrote the following: A foreigner came to our country. Then, as so many foreigners cheerfully do, he published his first deep impressions. The last sentence of his article was sad. He said: “The tragedy of the Philippines is this: in one of the world’s loveliest countries, some of the world’s most beautiful girls are being sold for money to some of the world’s ugliest men.” The priest, Fr. James Reuter, SJ, then made the point that when the trees are threatened people voice their indignation, when the fishing stocks are in danger then people protest, when land is sold unjustly then there is a surge of resentment but “when our beautiful girls are sold for money, the great rank and file of our people do not move.” It is as if the reality of prostitution has been around for so long that nothing can be done. But the girls and children are worth much more than the fish, the trees and the land. Let us not presume that nothing can be done! At one time slavery was considered “normal” and inevitable even though it was unpleasant, yet it is now considered to be an injustice against human rights. Perhaps one day we will look back on prostitution in the same way.
What is prostitution?
Some definitions and descriptions such as “entertainment,” “se x work,” “hostessing,”
“world’s oldest profession” and “guest relations officer” are not helpful as they make prostitution invisible, legitimate, or trivial. Prostitution is actually the sale of persons, most often women and children, for profit and sexual gratification of another. 5
Prostitution is in fact a violation and exploitation of basic human rights and human dignity. It takes advantage of vulnerable populations particularly women, children, and the poor . Prostitution is
In the Philippine Anti-Prostitution Bill of 2009, it is defined as “any act, transaction, scheme or design involving the use of a person whether woman, man or child, for sexual gratification, exploitation or pleasure of another in exchange for cash, profit or other consideration, or any act that promotes or facilitates the accomplishment of the said act, transaction, scheme or design.” -merely a single act where a person is bought for sex but is actually a system, and in it the so-called three “B’s” are involved: the Business, the Buyer and the Bought —
a) the business,
wherein the stakeholders are the pimps and sex establishment owners, b) the buyer, who is a customer with “buying power” and is typically a male, and
c) the bought - the person (woman, man or child) whose body serves as the capital as well as the commodity.
More than ever before, prostitution has become institutionalized, organized, and globalized (i.e., through trafficking and the internet). If we look at the streets around us we see the explosion in budget hotels which are so clean but not so good, the all pervasive sight of girly bars and the numerous high class clubs and establishments that seem tocater for so many well-to-do clientele.
Different forms of prostitution thus exist: street prostitution, bars, brothels, akyat-barko, “massage parlors,” escort services, sex tourism, cybersex, local & international sex trafficking.
Prostitution in the Philippines has become a de facto legal industry.
How many are involved in prostitution?
Even back in the summer of 1982, Manila was depressingly tagged as the biggest brothel in Asia. There were 50,000 registered hospitality girls in the tourist entertainment industry in the early 70’s, and in 1987 there were 300,000 bar girls, not to mention the unlicensed ones who were estimated to number about ¼ of the national figure then. 6
In 1998 it was estimated that there were at least 400,000 to 500,000 prostituted persons in the Philippines with 75,000 of these being...
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