Prostitution in Singapore
Prostitution in Singapore in itself is not illegal, but various prostitution-related activities are criminalized. This includes public solicitation, living on the earnings of a prostitute and maintaining a brothel. In practice, police unofficially tolerate and monitor a limited number of brothels. Prostitutes in such establishments are required to undergo periodic health checks and must carry a health card. Apart from these regulated brothels, commercial sex workers can be found in many "massage" or "spa" establishments. Some massage parlours, including tui na outlets, employ women from mainland China and offer massages as a pretext for sexual services. These activities are illegal, and the operators of such massage establishments risk jail if exposed by anti-vice police raids. Yet, virtually everyone who visits these establishments in particular is fully aware of the sexual services provided within, and are there precisely because of it. The main red-light district in Singapore are in Geylang. Orchard Towers, nicknamed the "Four Floors of Whores", is a shopping centre frequented by prostitutes. Some bars in Duxton Hill also offer sexual services, the most controversial ones being located at Adelphi which also houses a handful of law firms as well as being within walking distance of the Ministry of Law in Singapore.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a network of Japanese prostitutes being trafficked across Asia, in countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and British India, in what was then known as the ’Yellow Slave Traffic’. The main destinations of karayuki-san included China (particularly Shanghai), Hong Kong, the Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra.
In the late 19th century Japanese girls and women were sold into prostitution and trafficked from Nagasaki and Kumamoto to cities like Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore and then sent to other places in the Pacific, Southeast Asia and Western Australia, they were called Karayuki-san. In Wetsern Australia these Japanese prostitutes plied their trade and also entered into other activities, alot of them wed Chinese men and Japanese men as husbands and others some took Malay, Filipino and European partners.
In Western and Eastern Australia, gold mining Chinese men were serviced by Japanese Karayuki-san prostitutes and in Northern Australia around the sugarcane, pearling and mining industries the Japanese prostitutes serviced Kanakas, Malays, and Chinese, these women arrived in Australia or America via Kuala Lumpur and Singapore where they were instructed in prostitution, they originated from Japan's poor farming areas and the Australian colonial officials approved of allowing in Japanese prostitutes in order to sexual service "coloured' men, otherwise they thought that white women would be raped if the Japanese weren't availible.
Between 1890-1894 Singapore received 3,222 Japanese women who were trafficked from Japan by the Japanese man Muraoka Iheiji, before being trafficked to Singapore or further destinations, for a few months, the Japanese women would be held in Hong Kong, even though the Japanese government tried banning Japanese prostitutes from leaving Japan in 1896 the measure failed to stop the trafficking of Japanese women and a ban in Singapore against importing the women failed too, and in the 1890s Australia received immigration in the form of Japanese women working as prostitutes, in 1896, there were 200 Japanese prostitutes there, in Darwin, 19 Japanese women wre found by the Japanese official H. Sato in 1889, from Nagasaki the Japanese man Takada Tokujiro had trafficked 5 of the women via Hong Kong, he "had sold one to a Malay barber for £50, two to a Chinese at £40 each, one he had kept as his concubine; the fifth he was working as a prostitute". Sato said that the women were living "a shameful life to the disgrace of their countrymen'.
The voyages the traffickers transported these women on had terrible conditions with some girls suffocating as they were hidden on parts of the ship or almost starving to death, the girls who lived were then taught how to perform as prostitutes in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore where they then were sent of to other places including Australia.
The development of the Japanese enclave in Singapore at Middle Road, Singapore was connected to the establishment of brothels east of the Singapore River, namely along Hylam, Malabar, Malay and Bugis Streets during the late 1890s. The Japanese prostitutes or Karayuki-san dubbed Malay Street as Suteretsu, a transliteration of the English word "street". A Japanese reporter in 1910 described the scene for the people of Kyūshū in a local newspaper, the Fukuoka Nichinichi:
The vast majority of Japanese emigrants to Southeast Asia in the early Meiji period were prostitutes (Karayuki-san), who worked in brothels in Malaya, Singapore, Philippines, Dutch East Indies and French Indochina.
Most early Japanese residents of Singapore consisted largely of prostitutes, who would later become known by the collective name of "karayuki-san". The earliest Japanese prostitutes are believed to have arrived 1870 or 1871; by 1889, there were 134 of them. From 1895 to 1918, Japanese authorities turned a blind eye to the emigration of Japanese women to work in brothels in Southeast Asia. According to the Japanese consul in Singapore, almost all of the 450 to 600 Japanese residents of Singapore in 1895 were prostitutes and their pimps, or concubines; fewer than 20 were engaged in "respectable trades". In 1895, there were no Japanese schools or public organisations, and the Japanese consulate maintained only minimal influence over their nationals; brothel owners were the dominating force in the community. Along with victory in the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese state's increasing assertiveness brought changes to the official status of Japanese nationals overseas; they attained formal legal equality with Europeans. That year, the Japanese community was also given official permission by the government to create their own cemetery, on twelve acres of land in Serangoon outside of the urbanised area; in reality, the site had already been used as a burial ground for Japanese as early as 1888.
However, even with these changes in their official status, the community itself remained prostitution-based. Prostitutes were the vanguard of what one pair of scholars describes as the "karayuki-led economic advance into Southeast Asia". It was specifically seen by the authorities as a way to develop a Japanese economic base in the region; profits extracted from the prostitution trade were used to accumulate capital and diversify Japanese economic interests. The prostitutes served as both creditors and customers to other Japanese: they loaned out their earnings to other Japanese residents trying to start businesses, and patronised Japanese tailors, doctors, and grocery stores. By the time of the Russo-Japanese War, the number of Japanese prostitutes in Singapore may have been as large as 700. They were concentrated around Malay Street (now Middle Road). However, with Southeast Asia cut off from European imports due to World War I, Japanese products began making inroads as replacements, triggering the shift towards retailing and trade as the economic basis of the Japanese community.
The Japanese film studios shot a number of films in Shonan (what the Japanese renamed Singapore during the occupation in World War II) depicting the area as a sort of Japanese frontier. Films such as Southern Winds II (続・南の風, 1942, Shochiku Studios), Tiger of Malay (マライの虎, 1942, Daiei Studios) or Singapore All-Out Attack (シンガポール総攻撃, 1943, Daiei Studios) presented the area as a land rich in resources, occupied by simple but honest people, and highly exotic. Japanese colonial films also associated the region with sex as many "Karayuki-san", or prostitutes had been either sold to brothels or chosen to go to Southeast Asia to earn money around the turn of the century. Karayuki-san (からゆきさん, 1937, Toho Studios), Kinoshita Keisuke's Flowering Port (花咲く港, 1943, Shochiku Studios), and Imamura Shohei's Whoremonger (女衒, 1987, Toei Studios), which were all or at least partly shot on location, are examples of the extent to which this subgenre dominates the representations of Malaysia in Japanese cinema.
Commercial sex with underaged persons
Any person who obtains for consideration the sexual services of a person under 18 years of age (in other words, has commercial sex with such a person) commits an offence and may be punished with imprisonment of up to seven years or a fine or both. The term sexual services is defined to mean sexual services involving sexual penetration of the vagina or anus of a person by a part of another person's body other than the penis or by anything else, or penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of a person by a man's penis. It is also an offence for a person to communicate with another person for the purpose of having commercial sex with a person under 18. These offences apply to acts that take place in as well as outside Singapore.
It is a crime for a person to:
- make or organise any travel arrangements for or on behalf of any other person with the intention of facilitating the commission by that other person of an offence under section 376C (that is, offences relating to commercial sex with a minor under 18 outside Singapore), whether or not such an offence is actually committed by that other person;
- transport any other person to a place outside Singapore with the intention of facilitating the commission by that other person of an offence under section 376C, whether or not such an offence is actually committed by that other person; or
- print, publish or distribute any information that is intended to promote conduct that would constitute an offence under section 376C, or to assist any other person to engage in such conduct.
A person who is guilty of the offence may be punished with imprisonment of up to ten years, or a fine, or both.
It is a criminal offence to:
- sell, let for hire or otherwise dispose of or buy or hire or otherwise obtain possession of any woman or girl with intent that she shall be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution either within or without Singapore, or knowing or having reason to believe that she will be so employed or used;
- procure any woman or girl to have either within or without Singapore carnal connection except by way of marriage with any male person or for the purpose of prostitution either within or without Singapore;
- by threats or intimidation procure any woman or girl to have carnal connection except by way of marriage with any male person either within or without Singapore;
- bring into Singapore, receive or harbour any woman or girl knowing or having reason to believe that she has been procured for the purpose of having carnal connection except by way of marriage with any male person or for the purpose of prostitution either within or without Singapore and with intent to aid such purpose;
- knowing or having reason to believe that any woman or girl has been procured by threats or intimidation for the purpose of having carnal connection except by way of marriage with any male person, either within or without Singapore, to receive or harbour her with intent to aid such purpose;
- knowing or having reason to believe that any woman or girl has been brought into Singapore in breach of section 142 of the Women's Charter or has been sold or purchased in breach of section 140(1)(a), to receive or harbour her with intent that she may be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution either within or without Singapore;
- detain any woman or girl against her will on any premises with the intention that she shall have carnal connection except by way of marriage with any male person, or detain any woman or girl against her will in a brothel;
- detain any woman or girl in any place against her will with intent that she may be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or for any unlawful or immoral purpose; or
- attempt to do any of the above acts.
The penalty is imprisonment not exceeding five years and a fine not exceeding $10,000. A male person who is convicted of a second or subsequent offence under the first six offences listed above is liable to be caned in addition to being imprisoned.
Prostitution in practice
In Singapore, police unofficially tolerate and monitor a limited number of brothels, where the prostitutes are regularly screened for health check-up; however prostitution outside these brothels also exists. Prostitution outside the informally designated red-light areas operates from 3 main places 1) internet advertisement, 2) street solicitation, 3) KTV/massage parlor. The "internet advertised" girls are hosted in anonymous hotels, and the profile of each girl is available from the internet advertisement. Interested clients contact the "girl's agent" through SMS, who arranges the timing and gives the client hotel address. Girls operating from such illegal pimps come primarily from Thailand, China and Philippines to Singapore for a short tourist visit, and therefore are not screened for health check-ups.
- Fischer-Tiné, Harald (2003). "'White women degrading themselves to the lowest depths': European networks of prostitution and colonial anxieties in British India and Ceylon ca. 1880–1914". Indian Economic Social History Review 40 (2): 163–90 [175–81]. doi:10.1177/001946460304000202.
- James Francis Warren (2003). Ah Ku and Karayuki-san: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870-1940. Singapore Series, Singapore: studies in society & history (illustrated ed.). NUS Press. p. 86. ISBN 9971692678. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- FRANCES, RAELENE (July 2004). "‘White Slaves’ and White Australia: Prostitution and Australian Society" (PDF). Australian Feminist Studies (Carfax Publishing Taylor & Francis Group Taylor & Francis Ltd) 19 (44): 188. doi:10.1080/0816464042000226483. ISSN 1465-3303. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
- FRANCES, RAELENE (July 2004). "‘White Slaves’ and White Australia: Prostitution and Australian Society" (PDF). Australian Feminist Studies (Carfax Publishing Taylor & Francis Group Taylor & Francis Ltd) 19 (44): 189. doi:10.1080/0816464042000226483. ISSN 0816-4649. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
- Rae Frances (2007). Selling Sex: A Hidden History of Prostitution (illustrated ed.). UNSW Press. p. 57. ISBN 0868409014. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Dr Samantha Murray; Professor Nikki Sullivan, eds. (2012). Somatechnics: Queering the Technologisation of Bodies. Queer Interventions (revised ed.). Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 1409491978. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Emma Christopher; Cassandra Pybus; Marcus Rediker (2007). Emma Christopher; Cassandra Pybus; Marcus Rediker et al., eds. Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World. Volume 5 of The California world history library (illustrated ed.). University of California Press. p. 212. ISBN 0520252063. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Rae Frances (2007). Selling Sex: A Hidden History of Prostitution (illustrated ed.). UNSW Press. p. 49. ISBN 0868409014. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Historical Studies, Volume 17. 1976. p. 331. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Rae Frances (2007). Selling Sex: A Hidden History of Prostitution (illustrated ed.). UNSW Press. p. 48. ISBN 0868409014. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Prof Lai, "Built Forms in the Enclaves", p. 8-9.
- Ho Ai Li (Apr 8, 2014). "Tragic fate for the unwanted daughters". THE STRAITS TIMES.
- Shimizu & Hirakawa 1999, p. 25
- Warren 2003, p. 35
- Shimizu & Hirakawa 1999, p. 26
- Shiraishi & Shiraishi 1993, p. 8
- Tsu 2002, p. 96
- Shiraishi & Shiraishi 1993, p. 9
- Shimizu & Hirakawa 1999, p. 21
- Warren 2003, p. 41
- Baskett. The Attractive Empire, pp. 99-100
- Baskett. The Attractive Empire, pp. 94-97
- Prateep Chumpol; Chiradei Diskaprakai, translator (2003), The memoir of Keiko Karayuki-san in Siam, Numfon Publishing, ISBN 978-974-688-294-1, OCLC 181382979
- Warren, James Francis (1993), Ah Ku and Karayuki-san: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870–1940, Singapore; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-588616-0
- Une Horizontale à Saïgon (Prostitution une Horizontale à Saigon Indochine prostituée cochinchine Vietnam) (photograph) (in French). Saigon: Collection Phénix Mottet et co, éditeurs à Saigon. Archived from the original on January 1, 2010.
- SAIGON. - Un Groupe d'Horizontales Japonaises (Carte postale Saigon Vietnam, Un groupe d'Horizontales japonaises, Geishas) (photograph) (in French). Saigon. Archived from the original on Mar 7, 2005.
- VIET-NAM - Saigon : A Japanese prostitute (photograph) (in French). Saigon.
- 154. Cochinchine - Saïgon - Gorupe de juenes Japonaises (CPA VIET NAM COCHINCHINE SAIGON 1912 JEUNES JAPONAISES) (photograph) (in French). Saigon. 1912.
- 149. Cochinchine - Saïgon - Trois Juenes Mousmées (CPA Viet Nam COCHINCHINE SAIGON Trois Jeunes Mousmées animé !!! ETAT Trace visible !!! VOIR SCANS et Descriptions) (photograph) (in French). Saigon. 1900/1910 . Check date values in:
- 235. Cochinchine - Saïgon - Jeune Maman Japonaise et son Enfant (Rare CPA Viet Nam COCHINCHINE SAIGON Jeune Maman Japonaise et son Enfant animé VOIR SCANS et Descriptions) (photograph) (in French). Saigon. 1900/1910 . Check date values in:
- 231. Cochinchine - Saïgon - Types de Japonaises (CPA Viet Nam COCHINCHINE SAIGON Type de Japonaises animé VOIR SCANS et Descriptions) (photograph) (in French). Saigon.
- 146. Cochinchine - Saïgon JAponaise demi-mondaine (VIETNAM INDOCHINE VIETNAM COCHINCHINE SAIGON JAPONAISE DEMI MONDAINE PROSTITUTION EROTISME GEISHA) (photograph) (in French). Saigon. Archived from the original on 25 Apr 2015.
- Japanese Woman (A Japanese Karayuki-san (Prostitute) in Singapore). Singapore.
- Japanese Girls (photograph). Singapore. 1904.
- Penal Code (Cap. 224, 2008 Rev. Ed.), s. 376B(1). It is not an offence to obtain sexual services from one's own spouse: s. 376B(3).
- Penal Code, s. 376B(4).
- Penal Code, s. 376B(2); the penalty is imprisonment for up to two years, a fine, or both.
- Penal Code, s. 376C.
- Penal Code, s. 376D(1)(a).
- Penal Code, s. 376D(1)(b).
- Penal Code, s. 376D(1)(c). Publication of information means the publication of information by any means, whether by written, electronic or other form of communication: s. 376D(2).
- Penal Code, s. 376D(3).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(a).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(b).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(c).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(d).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(e).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(f).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(g).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(h).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(1)(j).
- Women's Charter, 140(1)
- Women's Charter, ss. 140(1)(a) to (f).
- Women's Charter, s. 140(2).
- "Singapore Massage / Therapy @ Adpost.com Classifieds". Adpost.com. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
- Leong, Samuel. http://sammyboyforum.com. Retrieved 7 January 2015. Missing or empty
- Further reading
- Archibald, C.P. [et al.] (6–11 June 1993), "Improved Knowledge but Unchanged Behaviour Following a Safe Sex Intervention among Prostitutes in Singapore", International Conference on AIDS 9: 825.
- Lim, K.B. [et al.]; Tham, SN; Sng, I; Tan, T (August 1984), "Screening for Cervical Cancers in Prostitutes" (PDF), Singapore Medical Journal 28 (4): 300–303, PMID 3423794.
- Ratnam, K.V. (December 1986), "Awareness of AIDS among Transsexual Prostitutes in Singapore", Singapore Medical Journal 27 (6): 519–521, PMID 3589723.
- Ratnam, K.V. (February 1990), "Efficacy of Health Education Programme on Awareness of AIDS among Transsexuals" (PDF), Singapore Medical Journal 31 (1): 33–37, PMID 2333540.
- Warren, James Francis (1994), "Chinese Prostitution in Singapore: Recruitment and Brothel Organisation", in Maria Jaschok & Suzanne Miers, eds., Women and Chinese Patriarchy: Submission, Servitude, and Escape, Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong, pp. 77–107, ISBN 978-1-85649-125-9.
- Warren, James Francis (1990), "Prostitution and the Politics of Venereal Disease: Singapore, 1870–98", Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (Cambridge University Press) 21 (2): 360–383, doi:10.1017/S0022463400003283, JSTOR 20071198.
- Wong, M.L. [et al.] (6–11 June 1993), "A Qualitative Investigation of Condom Use Negotiation among Prostitutes in Singapore", International Conference on AIDS 9: 113.
- Wong, Yang Joel (1996), "Brothels, Pimps and Prostitutes: The Administration of Criminal Justice vis-à-vis Prostitution", Singapore Law Review 17: 154.
- Tan, Roger (2012), Singapore Sex Guide 2013, Singapore: Amazon.com.
- Lim, Gerrie (2008), Invisible Trade II: Secret Lives and Sexual Intrigue in Singapore, Singapore: Monsoon Books, ISBN 978-981-05-9209-7.
- Lim, Gerrie (2004), Invisible Trade: High-class Sex for Sale in Singapore, Singapore: Monsoon Books, ISBN 981-05-1033-0.
- Brazil, David (1993), No Money No Honey, Singapore: Angsana Books, ISBN 981-00-5129-8.
- Warren, James Francis (1993), Ah Ku and Karayuki-san: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870–1940, Singapore; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-588616-0.
- Lai, Ah Eng (1986), Peasants, Proletarians, and Prostitutes: A Preliminary Investigation into the Work of Chinese Women in Colonial Malaya, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, ISBN 978-9971-988-38-8.
- Nicholl-Jones, S.E. (1941), Report on the Problem of Prostitution in Singapore, [Singapore]: [s.n.].
|Library resources about
Prostitution in Singapore
- Singaporeans fight sex trade with street lamps
- Prostitution wave hits 'squeaky clean' Singapore
- Singapore may raise minimum prostitution age to 18
- Country Narrative – Singapore
- Prostitution is not illegal in Singapore