Prostitution in the Philippines

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Prostitution in the Philippines is illegal. Penalties range up to life imprisonment for those involved in trafficking, which is covered by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.[1] Prostitution is sometimes illegally available through brothels (also known as casa), bars, karaoke bars (also known as KTVs), massage parlors, street walkers, and escort services.

In 2013 it was estimated that there were up to 500,000 prostitutes in the Philippines.[2]

Prostitution in various regions[edit]

Prostitution caters to local customers and foreigners. Media attention tends to focus on those areas catering to sex tourism, primarily through bars staffed by bargirls. Cities where there is a high incidence of prostitution are Angeles City, Olongapo, Subic Bay, and Pasay City,[3] with the customers usually foreign businessmen from East Asian and Western nations.[3]

Prostitution in Olongapo City and Angeles City was highly prominent during the time of the U.S. military Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Base, respectively.[4][5] When Mount Pinatubo, a volcano, erupted in 1991, it destroyed most of Clark Air Base and the United States closed it down in 1992.

Most of the associated prostitution trade closed with it, but when the mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim, closed down the sex industry area of Ermita in Manila during his first term starting in 1992, many of the businesses moved to Angeles, finding a new customer base among sex tourists.[6]

Other tourist areas such as Cebu have also developed a high-profile prostitution industry.

Violence and coercion against prostitutes[edit]

Women and children involved in prostitution are vulnerable to rape, murder, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases.[7]

Surveys of women working as masseuses indicated that 34 percent of them explained their choice of work as necessary to support poor parents, 8% to support siblings, and 28% to support husbands or boyfriends.[8] More than 20% said the job was well paid, but only 2% said it was easy work, and only 2% claimed to enjoy the work.[8]

Over a third reported that they had been subject to violence or harassment, most commonly from the police, but also from city officials and gangsters.[8]

According to a survey conducted by the International Labor Organization, prostitution is one of the most alienating forms of labor.[8] Over 50% of the women surveyed in Philippine massage parlors said they carried out their work “with a heavy heart”, and 20% said they were “conscience-stricken because they still considered sex with customers a sin”.[8] Interviews with Philippine bar girls revealed that more than half of them felt “nothing” when they had sex with a client, the remainder said the transactions saddened them.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Philippine Laws, Statutes And Codes - Chan Robles Virtual Law Library
  2. ^ "Number of prostitutes in the Philippines". September 23, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Empowering Street Children
  4. ^ Martin Brass (2004). The Modern Scourge of Sex Slavery. Soldier of Fortune Magazine. 
  5. ^ Lin Lean Lim (1998). The Sex Sector: The Economic and Social Bases of Prostitution in Southeast Asia. International Labour Organization. ISBN 92-2-109522-3. 
  6. ^ Lauber, Sabina (1995). "Confronting Sexual Exploitation". Australian Law Reform Commission Reform Bulletin. Winter 1995 (67). Retrieved 2007-02-07. 
  7. ^ Dennis A. Ahlburg, Eric R. Jensen and Aurora E. Perez, Determinants of extramarital sex in the Philippines, Health Transition Review, Supplement to Volume 7, 1997, 467-479
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Sex industry assuming massive proportions in Southeast Asia" (Press release). International Labor Organization. 19 August 1998. 

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