Prostitution in the Philippines
Prostitution in the Philippines is illegal, but widely prevalent. Penalties range up to life imprisonment for those involved in trafficking, which is covered by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. Prostitution is often available through bars, karaoke bars (also known as KTVs), massage parlors, brothels (also known as casa), street walkers, and escort services.
In 2013 it was estimated that there were up to 500,000 prostitutes in the Philippines. In her “Anti-Prostitution Act” (Senate Bill No. 2341), Senator Pia S. Cayetano cites the number of women being exploited in prostitution in the Philippines now ballooning to 800,000.
Prostitution in various regions
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, Legazpi, Albay, and Pasay City,[not in citation given] with the customers usually foreign businessmen from East Asian and Western nations.
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. When Mount Pinatubo, a volcano, erupted in 1991, it destroyed most of Clark Air Base and the United States closed it down in 1992.
Some 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.
Other tourist areas such as Cebu have also developed a high-profile prostitution industry.
There is no one single reason for the widespread prevalence of prostitution in the Philippines. Poverty is but one reason, cultural factors and the attitude of people towards money and the social acceptance of prostitution play a major role.
As per the Philippine Statistics Authority, Philippines has a poverty incidence of 24.9%. While this figure has been decreasing over the past few years, this still is one of the reasons why girls and their families turn to prostitution to enable the family to maintain a certain level of lifestyle. A large number of girls who come to Angeles tend to be provincial, especially from Samar, Leyte and Visayas, having seen their friends live a better life due to their job in the prostitution industry. However, a comparison made with other countries with higher poverty statistics, which do not have such rampant prostitution reveals that poverty is just one reason given, with the below being equally important.
Attitude towards money
Filipinos by and large tend to be one-day millionnaires, wherein saving money is given low priority and spending it is given a high priority. Poorer Filipinos often tend to have spending habits not commensurate with their ability to afford items. Hence most Filipinos have few savings, as a result of which when there is a paucity of money, prostitution is seen a convenient way out. Many Filipinas in the prostitution business tend to be women with families, husbands, children, and work in it temporarily as a means to supplement their domestic income.
Despite being a majority Catholic nation, for many Filipino households having money is given more importance than morality, thus augmenting this attitude.
Filipino society in general tends to have high acceptance levels of different behaviour. Gays, lesbians, same sex couples, single mothers, interracial marriages and couples with large age difference (upto 40 years) are openly accepted. Marrying for money, even when obvious, is not always looked down upon. In some provinces, having a foreigner boyfriend or husband (irrespective of his age) may be seen as a good catch. In some regions, such alliances are seen to elevate to social status of the girl.
Prostitution started around Clark air base since the early 1960s, when the base assumed importance due to the Vietnam war. During the 1970s, the main street of Olongapo had no less than 30 girlie bars catering to the needs of U.S.Navy troops visiting Subic Naval base. The city acquired the pseudonym "Sin city".
The closure of the U.S. bases in these two places did not change the scenario much - it only changed the clientele. Fields avenue near Clark (Angeles) continued to grow as a center of the sex tourism industry, under the umbrella of "entertainment" and "hospitality industry". The girlie bars at Olongapo were closed down in a major drive by the then governor Mrs. Jane Gordon, however, they only shifted to the neighbouring town of Barrio Baretto which contains a series of at least forty bars which act as prostitution centers.
Single Unwed Mothers
Some girls join the prostitution industry after they become single unwed mothers. The reasons for this vary between the unpopularity of condoms in the Philippines due to a strong Catholic church opposing it, poor / non-existent sex education, lack of a sex awareness legislation and a feeling of machismo among Filipino males. This normally consists of girls in the 17 to 19 years age bracket (sex with a girl below 18 is a punishable crime in the Philippines, however it is not uncommon).
Violence and coercion against prostitutes
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. 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.
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.
According to a survey conducted by the International Labor Organization, prostitution is one of the most alienating forms of labor. 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”. 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.
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