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FEATURE
Young, Poor, and Tricked into the Sex Trade

By Donna Demetillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 13:37:00 07/03/2010

Filed Under: Poverty, Women, Youth, Prostitution, Crime

LINDA?S tragedy was being young and poor, with a dream to rise above poverty in a country with no regard for its women and its youth.

The eighth of ten children, Linda had promised her mother that she would find a way to help the family financially. So when a friend informed her of a waitressing job in Kuala Lumpur that paid up to P15,000 a month, she grabbed the opportunity. But she was brought to Kota Kinabalu instead, where she was forced into prostitution in a spa in the red light district.

?The very night [we arrived], we started to work. Within the next 24 hours, I was forced to have sex with 11 men in all. My body was aching all over. I felt like a withered leaf,? she recalls.

In the same island not far from Linda?s hell, was the parallel world of Belle.

Forced to quit school and look for a job after childbirth at the age of 15, Belle decided that the best way to provide a better future for her baby was to leave home and work abroad.

With two other young girls, she grabbed a job offer from a neighbor?s friend as a sales promoter in a mall in Malaysia, with a monthly salary of P20,000, excluding tips and allowances. The three then boarded a ship for Sandakan, Sabah, in East Malaysia.

As soon as they arrived, the girls were brought to an apartment and asked to surrender their passports. Their ?employer? then ordered the three to take off their clothes. ?They examined each of our naked bodies thoroughly. I felt violated and dehumanized,? Belle recounts.

The girls were then given a salary advance and told to buy sexy clothes. Belle had hoped she would be working in a pub, but was shocked when she was brought to a massage and reflexology center, into a room where a customer was already waiting.

?I had not expected to be in this kind of work. I had to do whatever the customer wanted because he was paying for it. I was afraid that I would be killed if I did not follow instructions,? she says. ?I did not receive any of the service commissions and had to pay back the expenses incurred in being brought to Malaysia. Day after day, I had to succumb to this very humiliating work. ?

Linda?s and Belle?s stories are among the cases that have been documented by the Good Shepherd Asia Pacific Justice Peace Network (APJPN), a group representing 19 countries with a special mission to help exploited girls and women.

Their nightmare lives feed a multi-billion dollar industry that involves some 1.2 million young victims ? most of them women and children ? worldwide.

Filipinos have been especially vulnerable, given the Philippine government?s encouragement of a labor export orientation. A US State Department Report notes that 60,000 to 100,000 children had been trafficked as of 2006. But Jean Enriquez of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) estimates that half a million Filipino women are trafficked, a number much higher than cited in the US State Department Report.

Filipinos have been especially vulnerable, given the Philippine government?s encouragement of a labor export orientation. A US State Department Report notes that 60,000 to 100,000 children had been trafficked as of 2006. But Jean Enriquez of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) estimates that half a million Filipino women are trafficked, a number much higher than cited in the US State Department Report.

That the Philippine government has seemingly made no effort to curb this modern-day slave trade is reflected in its ?Tier 2 Watchlist? ranking for the second consecutive year, based on the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report. This despite Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, which penalizes acts of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, and receiving children for exploitative purposes.

The 2010 Report on 177 nations, made public last month by the US State Department?s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, is the most comprehensive worldwide report on the efforts of governments to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons.

The ranking is based on a standard monitoring of country governments? compliance with the Trafficking Victims? Protection Act (TVPA), where Tier 1 represents full compliance with the TVPA?s minimum standards.

A ?Tier 2 Watchlist? ranking is given to ?countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA?s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.? The other conditions that lead to this ranking are:

(a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing;
(b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year, or
(c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.?

From 2003-2008, the Department of Justice received 679 Trafficking In Persons cases, 253 of which are pending resolution. More than 2,000 cases are in court, and the rest are filed as violations of other penal laws, dismissed or withdrawn, according to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking that oversees the implementation of the Anti-Trafficking Law.

At the National Women?s Summit early this year, Paulo Fuller, International Director of the Anti-Trafficking Division of RENEW Foundation, an international organization working to empower women victims of prostitution and sex-trafficking, said Angeles City is one of the largest sex tourist destinations in the world, with over 15,000 women being prostituted in over 200 bar-based sex establishments in Balibago alone. The city is also the second largest destination point, after Metro Manila, for internal sex trafficking, as well as the main recruitment point used by trafficking networks.

A 2009 study conducted by RENEW in bar-based sex establishments revealed that trafficked women are typically single mothers, women who come from impoverished communities or broken families, women who experienced familial abuse as a child or adolescent, women who have low educational attainment, or who have a close friend or relative currently being prostituted.

Most crucial, according to Fuller, is the interception of women and girls en route before they reach their destinations. ?The cost of preventing women and girls from being trafficked may be expensive but it?s worth it.? - Women?s Feature Service



Copyright 2014 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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