The highly urbanized and sophisticated island of Singapore is not immune to child sex slavery (well, no country is). I would think that traffickers and other bad bandits would scare away in a land where even chewing gum and spitting on the street is illegal. Wrong! OBV, in collaboration with other organizations and the government of Singapore, has rescued numerous children under 18 from child (sex) exploitation over the years, including over a dozen children in the last two years! In fact, some of the girls that I have grown to love from OBV in Vietnam have been rescued from this deceiving place. Q., now in her twenties, courageously testified in court to put more than 50 men involved in a child trafficking ring behind bars in Singapore!
In the light, Singapore is beyond breathtaking. The greenery of neatly coiffed trees, the smoothly paved roads, the suave architecture of its high rise buildings, and the harmony between races and religions of its beautiful people surely impresses any visitor. However, Singapore is often a destination for men, women, and girls from China, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. Too often they are recruited though offers of legitimate employment and deceived about the nature or conditions of the prospective work in Singapore. Upon arrival, their passports are confiscated, they have restrictions on their movement with illegal withholding of their pay, and are subject tophysical and sexual abuse with or without compliance. Many have accumulated debt related to their transport to Singapore, as well as daily food, housing, and pimp fees that they are forever entrapped in "debt bondage". I read a story that sounds all too familiar of a 17 year old girl who was lured to work in Singapore. She was forced to have sex on 150 occasions with men of all races within a 2 week period! Her story, and for so many girls like her that I've met, tugs at every string of my heart: http://therealsingapore.com/content/prc-pimp-pleads-guilty-forcing-minor-prostitution.
Our group stayed in the heart of the Red Light District of Singapore called Geylang District. I was welcomed to our hotel with the sight of a pimp and his girl on the front lawn! Prostitution is legal in Singapore - for those over 18 of course. I assume Singapore authorities figure that it is better to legalize prostitution in certain defined areas so that it can be controlled to a certain degree rather than to outlaw it completely. A complete ban on the sex trade will only drive it underground (Oh Canada). Legalizing prostitution makes it easier to conduct education programs to promote safe sex practices and keep track and treat sexually transmitted diseases.
Though brothels exist from Lor (street) 2 through 30, most of the action is found from Lor 14 to 24. The first 4 streets have legal brothels, where transactions are made behind closed doors and street solicitation of sex is illegal. Prices are also higher for legal prostitutes, usually over $60. Not much excitement on these particular streets from an outsider's eyes like myself - though Andrew can tell you differently about his undercover experiences in these brothels. The gut-wrenching action can be witnessed on Lor 22 and 24. Dimly lit streets are countered by the clicking andchatter of dozens of working girls in heels and the banter of their pimps to male passersby. "$30 for one hour!" "Hey you! $15 for one hour, good deal!" says the villain in tacky leather shoes, faded jeans, and a smug smile I see across the street. The pimps stand tall and proud (ugh!) while I see the women look used, weathered, and tired.
Sex tourists of all races and locals to Singapore find themselves in the Geylang district with prostitutes from all origins, including ones dressed in traditional sarees and other ethnic attire! Sure there's good food, but it's hard to ignore the dolled up women around you.
Google offers many links to advice for any enthusiast who wants to dabble in the sex industry of places like Geylang. I hope that my blog offers a sympathetic perspective of the women who work these streets.
Thuy, acting as a Vietnamese girl in desperate need of money to return home, approached a pimp to ask about prospective work on the street. The first thing he asked for was her passport! On the other hand, Father Martino overheard a Vietnamese working girl confide to another worker how she dreams of going home for Tet (Vietnamese New Years) if only her pimp would allow it and is scared of another beating for asking. Another Vietnamese woman complained to another worker how she needs to meet her quota of 15 clients before she can go home to sleep! Cliche as it may be, I've learned that you can never judge a book by its cover. Every person as a story to be heard. An alluring smile on the outside can easily hide the pain, torment, and even illegal capture of these women who work the streets.
We learned that younger, more beautiful girls work the KTVs (Karaoke bars) at higher prices. At the end of the night, you can take your girl home, or rent a hotel at an hourly rate. Older more seasoned women work the streets. Yes, prostitution, the fee for service act between two consenting adults, all morals and taboos aside, should be considered legal. However, from what I've seen and learned in Singapore, not all women can consent when they are lured, coerced, beaten, and threatened by their pimps. How can you tell? She's definitely not going to tell that you she needs help.
Something also doesn't sit right with me when men, both foreign and local, can shamelessly bargain for the price of women like vegetables at the market.