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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


from where are the bar-girls ???  

Please read this before you take a girl out of a bar !!!!!

How They Get Trafficked

Traffic in women is by no means new. It is as old as the earliest civilization and continues to this day. In written history, there are references to slave auctions of women who were bought either for domestic labor or brothel bondage. As late as 1991, we hear of kidnapped women at the Pakistan-Afghan border being sold in the marketplace for R600 per kilogram.

When does it stop, how do we stop it? Traffic in women and children has not only persisted but has increased in magnitude. It is now a crisis of global proportions. Part of the reason for its continued existence is the cunning by which traffickers have adapted to the changing times, enabling them to circumvent country laws on trafficking. Another reason is the uneven development among nations that puts rich countries in the position to demand women and children as part of their consumable imports from countries that are poorer. But overarching this is the patriarchal notion that some women should be placed into such service for men. Thus, male populations of poor countries use prostituted women and some women citizens of rich countries are in prostitution systems.

While the slave auctions of old often sold men and women captured by conquering armies, today's trafficking in women is perpetuated not only through abductions and false promises of good jobs or marriages, but also through the up-front sales pitch that women can earn more through prostitution.

A study in India indicates that many young girls are entering the trade in emulation of those who have gone before and are now enjoying improved lifestyles. In the Philippines, a study on child prostitution had as one of its respondents a 17-year-old bathhouse attendant who said that many women in her tiny impoverished village had worked in massage parlors and were looked up to for helping their families raise their standard of living. She hoped to do the same herself. In Thailand, the risk of being prostituted or the nature of the job of prostitution is not of as much concern as earning money or getting a work permit and passport to be able to live abroad. These economic imperatives perpetuate the idea that some women enter prostitution voluntarily.

But in studying the reasons why some women trafficked go into prostitution, or why once there -- through violent means or trickery -- they opt to stay, there exists a convergence of circumstances that practically propels them into situations where they experience harm to their personhood. In almost all cases, there is the grinding poverty that they wish to escape. Add to this the Asian tradition of helping the family by whatever means. And in certain countries where discrimination against female children is much more pronounced, daughters are made to keenly feel their financial obligation to the family.

The "green rice season," when farmers are short of money while the rice grows, is the prime season for girl-hunting in the rural and hill tribes of Thailand and Burma. In Thailand where prostitution is gaining wide acceptance and may even someday be added to the national accounting, prostitution agents introduce themselves as they are and recruit girls or buy them from their parents. In the Philippines, despite official and non-government efforts to dissuade women from going to Japan or other countries as entertainers, or entering into marriage with foreign men they hardly know or only through letters, Filipino women continue to go abroad in an unrelenting wave mainly for economic reasons, aware of the risks but still hoping for the best.

 Debt Bondage in Prostitution

The argument that prostitution actually benefits in women because it gives them jobs is a fallacy. In 1991, Filipino, Thai and Taiwanese women were being sold in Japan, often to the Yakuza, at $2,400 to $18,000 each. The promoter resold a woman to other sex business owners at double the price. Sometimes the women were simply rented at a monthly charge of $1,600 to $6,400. The woman herself may receive a small percentage as commission, but very often, she would not be seeing any of this money until she has repaid the expenses for her passport and travel papers.

In Australia, trafficked women are saddled with a $15,000-$18,000 debt at the outset. It is only after they have had about 200 customers at $45 a customer that they can start earning for themselves. In Thailand, the brothel network has a system of rotation that keeps its victims perpetually in debt. The brothel owner sells a girl to another brothel just before she has paid all her debts. At the new brothel, she starts again from ground zero. After she has paid her debts, a woman often stays in the brothel circuit to be able to earn money. In India, the debt bondage forces Nepalese and Bangladeshi women to work longer hours and have more clients than local women. They often work without condoms and undercut prices to get enough clients.

The Sydney Sexual Health Centre in Australia claims that many women work in pain and with active infections, pelvic inflammatory diseases, acute herpes and traumatic pelvic syndromes, as a result of the pressure to serve clients and to be able to pay off their bonds as soon as possible. The market for Asian women emerged and grew in the 1980s when local prostituted women insisted on the use of condoms.

Fake Jobs

Nepalis and Bangladeshis, lured by visions of a glamorous life in the city or career prospects in show business or simply the promise of jobs in factories or households, find themselves locked up in brothels in India or Pakistan. False employment hopes have also victimized Indonesians. Thai women bound for Canada, expecting to work as hostesses, salespersons and waitresses, are prostituted instead. Filipinas go abroad as housemaids and entertainers and are sucked into the sex industry. Vietnamese women go as tourists to foreign lands to look for work, and then the agencies that arrange these tours force them into prostitution in those countries. Sri Lankan women have fallen victim to training offers in Japan and Korea where they are brought ostensibly to undergo job training, and then they disappear.

 Who Profits from Trafficking

Prostitution does not benefit its victims, but it does benefit bar owners and brothel-keepers, pimps and procurers. It benefits recruiting agencies, airline companies, hotels, resorts, travel groups and marriage bureaus. It benefits underworld syndicates cashing in on the global demand for cheap labor and the sexual services of women. The Australian federal police estimated in 1988 that illegal prostitution was grossing A$30 million a year. And trafficking benefits the states that receive the women's remittances. It is believed that it is the billion dollar earnings of Filipino overseas contract workers that has been keeping the Philippine economy afloat for two decades now. This is seen as part of the reason why many governments have turned a blind eye to the widespread, wholesale traffic of women. And when they are confronted with cases of their citizens being abused abroad, they often treat the stories of brutality or murder as isolated cases that must not be allowed to upset delicate foreign relations, especially regional ties. The trafficking issue is ignored due to prejudice. Bangladeshi women victims are seen as "fallen, undeserving." The Australian government feels that international drug rings involved and the question of women being trafficked is a secondary issue to the drug traffic.

Crime Syndicates

International crime syndicates are involved because of the high profit potential and the difficulty of detection and comparatively low penalties from prosecution. Aside from passport fraud and visa offenses, multimillion dollar profits are untaxed and moved offshore for money laundering purposes, pointing to the large-scale use of fraudulent documents. These activities touch upon the responses of government agencies, both in the receiving country and in the sending country. Every successful syndicate has cohorts in the bureaucracy. Trafficking would be greatly stymied with out bribe-takers among travel document processors, immigration officials and airport inspectors, among border patrollers who may have first pick of the women being trafficked into their country, among the police who get regular pay-offs from sex establishment owners and thus have a vested interest in the continuance of the trade.

In some countries trafficking today is sophisticated, technologized, there are still cases like the account of 74 Bangladeshi women and children who were on their way to be sold in Pakistan. When they were rescued, they were found bound and gagged in the cargo hold of their boat, a scene reminiscent of American slave ships bearing kidnapped Africans in the 19th century.

Trafficking must be analyzed not only in terms of structural inequality between Third World and industrialized countries, but also in terms of migrant women's low status as women and as populations of poor countries. Men who look for jobs abroad do not face the problems and horrors of sexual exploitation. Thus while providing economic alternatives, the basic question of the status of women in society must also be taken into consideration as well as the legal and business structures that perpetuate the commodification of women's bodies.


Operations of Syndicates

The massive migration of women for work abroad, however, has also been facilitated by state policies and programs and the international demand for cheap labor. It is the combination of a legitimizing system that involves government and private sector recruiters and marketers, the local pressure of unemployment, the growing demand for bought sex and the operations of international crime syndicates, that have led to the worldwide explosion of the traffic in women.

The following are two examples of how syndicates operate:

·         In the Philippines, women who want to work in Japan as entertainers apply to a promotion agency where they are given, free of charge, training in singing and dancing. Recruiters for such agencies also go out to provincial towns and villages to encourage girls to avail of opportunities offered them. After training, official auditions take place to certify them as entertainers. Sometimes, Japanese agents come to the Philippines to pick out women themselves, for their skills and looks,

Generally, the women bound for Japan are given their passports in sealed envelopes at the airport before departure. Often, names and ages have been changed. The fake passports are not detected because collusion by airport personnel who allow the women to board the plane without being checked by inspectors. In Japan, the women are met and housed by maintainers, often Yakuza members, who rape and brutalize them before taking them to the nightclubs where they will work. The women are prevented from leaving by threats of violence. Should they manage to escape, they get no sympathy or assistance from the Philippine Embassy in Japan. Sometimes, they are even returned to the club.

·        In Australia, the brothels are supplied by international syndicates, or brothel owners go overseas and escort their victims to Australia. The documented case of an arrested Thai bearing a Singaporean passport sketches the stages of recruitment and deception. The woman was made to believe by an agent in Thailand that airfare, accommodation and employment as a waitress awaited her in Sydney. She traveled to New Zealand on an authentic Thai passport. Upon her arrival, the passport was taken from her and she was made to travel with a male escort to Perth. Then she was flown to Sydney. There, she was met by woman who took her to a brothel and then informed her that she owed the brothel $15,000 for travel expenses and documents.

There are an increasing number of prostituted Asian women in Australia who have permanent residence. Some have married Australians, but these seem to be contrived marriages. However, it would appear that at present Australian authorities are not as concerned about trafficking in women as they are about the trafficking of drugs for which prostitution provides a cover. According to the federal police, prostitution provides drug traffickers with the following: financial resources; associates in drug source and transit countries; transport for illegal drugs via the frequent movement of prostituted women and escorts; and access to distribution networks via organized crime contacts in Australia.

Crime syndicates obtain women from various countries to counter law efforts. Where Filipinas were once predominant, Thais and Malaysians are currently more numerous. Recently, there has been an increase in Indonesian women.


How to keep millions of good women down

The twentieth century has seen the rise of the world marketplace. In this new world market, Thailand and the Philippines have recently stepped in to play the role of whorehouse to the world. This is facilitated by developing agents having disregarded the development of women's opportunities for economic independence, leaving prostitution as the highest paying job available to many of the women of Southeast Asia.

While these countries have benefited from the tourist presence and the resulting foreign exchange, the women who actually put themselves out for their countries development process are to a large extent victims of threefold oppression on the basis of gender, class and the particular role of their homeland in the games of international political economy.

International Political Economics

"Ja, I like Bangkok very much. It's the last place in the world where you can still be a white man." - a German Bar Owner1

The idea of creating designated areas for sex tourism in Asia dates back at least as far as pre-Communist China, where "[b]rothel trains, given the euphemism of 'comfort waggons' were a long accepted part of social life... . Once lusty Europeans could book a ticket to erotic pleasure on some of the specially chartered trains out of Shanghai."2

But it was to be the Japanese who set up the most comprehensive network of "comfort waggons" staffed by forced prostitutes, or "comfort women." Many women "lived as captives of the military beginning in 1932, when Japan invaded China, to the end of the war in 1945."3 Forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers, the women were drawn from the Asian countries conquered by Japan, and included "Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, as well as Dutch women captured in Indonesia, then a Dutch colony."4

While the Japanese had fostered prostitution on a limited scale to serve their own needs, "the boom in Southeast Asia started with the U.S. presence in Vietnam. There were 20,000 prostitutes in Thailand in 1957; by 1964, after the United States established seven bases in the country, that number had skyrocketed to 400,000."5 It was this boom, and the resulting slack after the war that was taken up by tourism, that introduced prostitution as a large-scale business to the region.

This whole process was overseen by the governments of both countries. In 1967, Thailand agreed to provide "rest and recreation" services to American servicemen during the Vietnam War, which the soldiers themselves called, "I&I, ... intercourse and intoxication."6 How did the governments of these countries respond to becoming, in the words of Senator J. William Fulbright, "an American brothel"? One South Vietnamese government official responded, "The Americans need girls; we need dollars. Why should we refrain from the exchange? It's an inexhaustible source of U.S. dollars for the State."7 In fact, the Vietnam war was responsible for "[injecting] some $16 million into the Thai economy annually, money that tourism would have to replace after the war was over."8

Whereas traditionally, the military forces of foreign powers have utilized women of Southeast Asia as prostitutes, or "comfort women," now the soldiers of the countries themselves have taken over. In a survey of Thai students, soldiers, store clerks and labourers, "[a]mong the respondents who have ever patronized prostitutes, the soldiers are the most likely to have visited a prostitute recently: 81% respond that they have visited a prostitute within the past six months."9 In addition, "[t]he median number of visits during the past six months ranges from two for the students to five for the soldiers..."10 A survey of military conscripts from the north of Thailand yielded that "73% of them lost their virginity with a prostitute and 97% regularly visit prostitutes."11

Current government complicity in the "illegal" trade of prostitution can be seen on many fronts. From the soldiers to the politicians, the tourism bureau officials to the police forces, every sector of the powers-that-be have a vested interest in the continuation of prostitution; "many politicians, officials and policemen invest in the sex trade or benefit from it. In the northern province of Phrae, a senior Thai official says, policemen own some of the brothels. Thai newspapers sometimes suggest that certain politicians own chains of brothels."12 Indeed, in a pernicious twist to the idea of official complicity, taken to the point of collusion, "there are several recorded instances in which police, especially in rural areas, have handed escaping girls back to their abusers."13 One story in particular illustrates the forces arrayed against women caught up in this enterprise:

When a group of prostitutes managed to escape from a brothel in Thailand earlier this year, they were reportedly caught by the police in Burma, lock up, assaulted and raped, and then released. They were almost immediately picked up again by the racketeers and returned to Thailand.14

In Thailand, the official position on prostitution is that "prostitution does not exist because it is illegal,"15 which is explained by the fact that "massage parlours, restaurants, motels and tea houses may well offer sexual as well as other services, but they do not count as brothels."16 This side-stepping the issue "is a severe handicap to campaigns that seek to provide safeguards for prostitutes and to limit the spread of AIDS."17 But this doublespeak is vital to maintain a supposed clean bill of health for foreigners considering Thailand for their next sexcapade.

Ultimately, much of official complacency with prostitution is tied to the view of prostitutes as a national resource. During a South Korean orientation session for prostitutes, the women were told: "You girls must take pride in your devotion to your country. Your carnal conversations with foreign tourists do not prostitute either yourself or the nation, but express your heroic patriotism."18 These women play a vital role in the tourism industry which, "including group sex tours, is Thailand's largest single source of foreign exchange."19 Ultimately, what it comes down to, is that "young Thai country women are just another kind of crop."20

During the Vietnam war, the World Bank recommended that Thailand pursue mass tourism as an economic strategy; and the

economic initiatives consequent on the bank's report led to what is routinely described today as a $4-billion-a-year business involving fraternal relationships among airlines, tours operators and the masters of the sex industry. In this sense, sex tourism is like any other multinational industry, extracting enormous profits from grotesquely underpaid local labour and situating the immediate experience of the individual worker - what happens to the body of a 15-year-old from a village in Northeast Thailand - in the context of global economic policy.21


Looking at the problem of prostitution from the perspective of class yields a dichotomy between the wealth and opportunity available to the city-dwellers and the poverty that is the legacy of the rural sector, the source of the vast majority of prostitutes in Southeast Asia ("One study of 1000 Bangkok massage girls found that seventy percent came from farming families"22). This is reinforced on multiple levels, including education, rate of development, development resources allocated and economic statistics: while "only 15% of the population of Thailand lives in the Bangkok area, [it] accounts for half of GDP. Income levels in Bangkok are nine times higher than in the north-eastern part of Thailand, where one-third of the population lives."23 The example of Thailand's development strategy serves best to illustrate this phenomena:

the burden of Thailand urban industrial growth has been borne by the peasantry. In the first place, the much needed foreign exchange earnings for Thailand's initial industrial development were derived from agricultural exports, particularly rice. Secondly, Thailand's ability to attract foreign investors has depended upon its ability to guarantee low labor costs.24

This policy of artificially lowering the price of rice to encourage exports, and maintain low food costs for urban labourers, "...operates to transfer income from the countryside to the city..."25 Thus the perpetuated poverty of the rural areas encouraged migration to cities; and "[w]ith this migration process, the peasantry made its third contribution to Thailand's industrial development. It was now sending its sons and daughters to comprise Bangkok's swelling labor force."26 In the 1950s, these immigrants were men, but "comparison of the 1960 and 1970 census data on migration shows that the most notable change has been the increased proportion of females migrating to Bangkok, especially single migrants 10-19 years old."27

These women, once in the city, are then cajoled, coerced and condemned to take up prostitution as the highest paying job available. Then, once they have begun to make some money, in most cases, they send large portions of those earning home. An International Labour Organization study "found that of fifty prostitutes interviewed, all but four send money home. Most remit one-third to one-half their earnings, sums essential to their rural families' survival."28 That, or the women start off indentured to prostitute themselves to pay off loans their families accept from their daughters's future employers.

It has been established that "access to education is an important indicator for establishing the extent to which a community is benefiting from the changes that accompany economic development."29 In the case of rural Thai women, that access has been severely limited, due in part, it seems, to their rural placement and not their gender. At a very basic level,

[w]here countries such as the Philippines and Malaysia have concentrated on a quantitative expansion of education to expand and meet human capital requirements, Thailand has maintained a strong tradition of making educational opportunity highly competitive and taken an elitist approach to higher education.30

Not only does this attitude translate into fewer schools, but also "this emphasis on quality, up until the 1980s at least, saw Thailand concentrate the bulk of its higher educational institutions within and around Bangkok. By implication, this saw educational opportunity largely confined to this one major urban region."31 In the rural sector, figures from 1986 bore out 7,157,713 children enrolled across the six years of primary school in 1986, and 1,277,619 enrolled across the first three years of secondary.32

But while these systemic shortcomings effect all of the students in the rural districts, male and female,

the shortage of government schools and teachers in rural areas has meant the continuation of traditional pagoda education conducted by monks and therefore not available to girls. Today, 30,459 temples still provide the main opportunity for schooling, and thus social mobility, for Thailand's rural poor - males, that is, not females.33

Evidence of this educational inequality can be found in illiteracy rates after a half a century of compulsory education, 6.3% for men and 17% for women.34



Once the problem is reduced to gender differences and inequality, some clear trends emerge. The most prevalent of these being that the continuing success of the prostitution trade rests on the perceptions of the clients seeing the women as both desirable in their exoticism and willing participants in the exchange.

The women of Southeast Asia are subject to age-old, deeply ingrained stereotypes and pre-conceptions; "[s]ex tours primarily market Asian women, described as exotic and docile..."35 There's the perceived "mystique of the Asian woman - beautiful, obedient, available..."36 Some descriptions are even more overt: "[a] Swiss tour operator describes Thai women as 'slim, sun-burnt and sweet ... masters of the art of making love by nature.'"37 These are the qualities that appeal to the foreigners; take, for example, this testimony by a "sexile" or a "sexpatriot," an aging European foreigner who went to Southeast Asia looking for sexual adventure:

Now, ... he is reduced to buying himself a bit of affection, some excitement, illusions of comfort and consolation. He has contempt for Britain, where, he says, everyone has gone soft, men are no longer men and women have got too assertive. This is a recurring subtext in the testimony of the sexiles: Filipinas are anxious to please, they don't ask questions, are docile and submissive. "What d'you expect in a woman," says Mike defiantly.38

Even, when you approach the subject of development programs that might offer some hope of redemption, some opportunity " create viable income producing alternatives in poor villages that can compete with the earning powers of prostitution,"39, women are denied solely on the basis of their gender; "Aid programmes and information, when available, are almost invariably channeled through men."40

In the midst of this analysis of political economy and gender and class, and the effects they have on prostitution, a moment must be taken to examine the deleterious effects of prostitution on the women who work it. Disease is a constant threat to these prostitutes, some of whom have sex with upwards of eight or nine men a day. Studies have shown that in some locales, more than forty per cent of the prostitutes have venereal disease.41 Also, when, as is often the case, they are started young, "boys and girls are more vulnerable to infection because they are prone to lesions and injuries in sexual intercourse."42 And risk is also increased when the women continue prostituting through their menstrual cycle, as they are wont to do, to avoid the fines levied by bars for taking time off for their periods. Besides those risks, the women often "go deaf because of the incessant loud music in the bars and suffer intestinal disorders because they are forced to throw up so as to keep ordering expensive drinks."43

The physical suffering borne by these women is often unbearable without the aid of drugs. Take, for example, this story of a young prostitute:

After having my body ravaged by several customers in a row, I just get too tired to move my limbs. At times like this, a shot of heroin is needed. This enables me to handle five or six men in a single night. I can't help but take the drug in order to keep myself in working condition.44

A United Nations study of a thousand Thai prostitutes revealed that a quarter were regular users of speed, barbiturates, and heroin. All these serve to keep the women indebted to and dependent on yet more unhealthiness.

Finally, the question begs itself: "How does a young Thai woman, normally very shy, dance naked in front of strangers or sleep with them? 'You make yourself very empty,' says Noi, a former prostitute..."45 And after they have been through this experience of prostituting themselves, often there is a need for "counselors for the girls who had been mentally affected by their ordeal"46 - a need, of course, which remains unmet for the vast majority of Southeast Asian prostitutes.

The men, on the other hand, ride the other end of the equation. Whether foreign or local, the men are willing to use the women to satisfy their sexual needs at an incredible rate. This often without regard to disease or any common moral restraints, including age: prostitutes as young as seven are often bartered alongside their older counterparts.

While the foreign aspect of prostitution in Thailand and the Philippines may garner the most attention and money, most of the customers, patronizing the cheapest establishments, are native: "[a]ccording to reliable surveys of sexual behaviour, every day at least 450,000 Thai men visit prostitutes"47 (emphasis mine). Thus, much of the impetus sustaining the incredible rate of prostitution in Thailand is cultural; "Thai men think it is their right to have cheap sex, ... and there are enough poor Thai women to make it possible."48 Prostitution in many cases has become integrated with initiation rights: "[f]or many Thai men, a trip to the neighborhood brothel is a rite of passage, a tradition passed from father to son."49 Certainly, prostitutes play a large part in forming the sexual identity of young Thai males; "a demonstration of heterosexual orientation by having sex with a female prostitute is an important rite of passage for some groups of Thai men."50 This is borne out by the available statistics: "[s]tudies show that the majority of Thai men have their first sexual experience with a prostitute - the act is often a part of high school and university hazing rituals - and that 95% of all men over 21 have slept with a prostitute."51 In addition to rites of passage, the activity of visiting a whorehouse has become a social activity in many cases, "'Sex with prostitutes seems to be a way for men to enjoy each other's company,' notes Barbara Franklin of Care International, ... 'It is often part of a night out with friends who share food, drink and sometimes even sexual partners.'"52

This fosters a deep imbalance in the attitudes most Thai men have towards women and sex; "[m]ost men consider women to be either sexual objects of obedient homemakers."53 And the rift between the sexes deepens when one considers the sexual roles prescribed each:

And while it is perfectly acceptable for men to visit prostitutes, premarital sex between men and women who are dating is strictly forbidden. Many Thais believe that this double standard has helped create the thriving sex trade. "In Thailand, women are supposed to be chaste until marriage and monogamous afterward," says writer and social critic Sukanya Hantrakul. "Men are supposed to be promiscuous."54

Indeed, a survey of both sexes by the Deemar Corporation in 1990, bore out that "80% of males and 74% of the females responded that it was 'natural for men to pursue sex at every opportunity."55


The forced migration of rural women, girls in many cases, to the cities cannot be solely explained in terms of coercion. Many women "find their way with open eyes, drawn by the prospects of much higher rewards than they could ever earn even in a government job, let alone doing unskilled work in industry or agriculture."56 In the Philippines, "Hospitality girls can make as much as [US$49] a night, almost the average monthly salary in the Philippines."57 In a 1982 study by Pasuk Phongpaichit, a Thai sociologist, for the International Labour Organization "[estimated] the income of sex workers at twenty-five times that attainable in other occupations. Entire families in the countryside are supported on the earnings of one daughter in Bangkok, and entire rural villages are made up of such families."58

The International Labour Organization in Geneva surveyed 50 women who had made the migration to Bangkok to work in massage parlours to examine the women's rationale behind their work in the sex trade. Their findings summarize the economic thinking behind their decisions:

The migration gave them an earning power which was simply astounding relative to normal rural budgets. A couple of years of work would enable the family to build a house of a size and quality which few people in the countryside could hope to achieve in the earnings of a lifetime...They were engaging in an entrepreneurial move designed to sustain the family unites of a rural economy... Our survey clearly showed that the girls felt they were making a perfectly rational decision within the context of their particular social and economic structure.59

Prostitution, in some sense, allows the women that are able to take advantage of it the opportunity to live the American dream, to enjoy and extend increased consumerism to their families: "[m]odernization and sophisticated advertisements have also brought new desires for consumer goods to villagers and a shift towards a cash economy."60 On the other end of the motivation spectrum, there are student prostitutes at the University of the East, in Manila, who "are putting themselves or their siblings through college"61 by prostituting themselves, primarily to other students.

In perhaps the most sad permutation of the prostitution situation, for some Filipino women, an

almost religious belief in the promised land - America - adds to the attraction of the hospitality business. Many of the girls pin their hopes on prostitution as a way of achieving their ultimate dream: marriage to an American. For these young women their customers are people who can give them things, like blue-eyed kids and a condo, not AIDS.62

This scenario, however unlikely, was plausible during the existence of active U.S. bases on the Philippine islands. A 1989 article in The Economist reported that "around half of America's young, single servicemen leave their posting with a Philippine bride"63 - which, of course, left most of the rest of the women to be "rewarded only with sexual diseases... and unwanted babies."64

Now with the bases gone, there are few customers who stay around long enough to develop this sort of relationship with the women, in fact, there are far fewer customers overall, leaving the women without clients, and without skills, hence without jobs.

The Advent of AIDS

Perhaps what will be the final arbiter in the struggle over prostitution is the advent of AIDS to the brothels of Thailand and the Philippines. AIDS is spread rapidly and efficiently by the brothels because, basically, "[m]en do not like to use condoms, and the women can ill afford to refuse a customer who will not."65

The rapid onset of the disease is imminent, if not already in progress, simply because, "[m]ost of the men visiting prostitutes reported having nonprostitute partners as well. Of those men who had both types of partners (prostitutes and nonprostitutes), most men who had unprotected intercourse with prostitutes also had unprotected intercourse with nonprostitutes."66 Without a hint of irony, "[w]hile Thai men will wear condoms for family panning, ... they object to them with girlfriends and prostitutes"67 - meaning that the men that patronize prostitutes bring the disease home to their wives, and ultimately, their children.

The brothels also serve to export AIDS internationally as well. When foreign prostitutes become infected in the brothels of the cities of the Philippines or Thailand, they are often sent home to Burma, or Cambodia, or Laos, where they continue to spread the disease. In addition, "returning sex tourists have probably imported HIV to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan."68

This is an area where women can no longer endure their second-class status in silence; "women have a 10 times greater risk of contracting the AIDS virus from men than men do from women."69 According to one estimate, "at the current rate, at least 1.5 million Thai women will be HIV-positive by the year 2000, and so will one third of their children."70 U.S. News and World Report provides an economic breakdown, predicting that "AIDS could mean $8.7 billion in lost income - $2 billion a year in foreign funds is at risk - AIDS health costs could jump by a factor of 65"71 all of this meaning that prostitution could end up exacting a higher human toll than was ever estimated - leading to speculation that perhaps AIDS is some sort of retribution for the wholesale abuse and expliotation of the women of these countries.

Ironically, "no sector of the Thai economy has more to fear than the $5 billion tourism industry."72 In fact, sex tourists are already beginning to shy away from some of the hot spots of Bangkok and Manila. The combined human and economic costs of AIDS should soon jar the governments of these countries out of their complacency and denial, or else they could very well have a catastrophe of epic proportions on their hands.


Perhaps what best sums up the reasons for the continuing willing participation of many prostitutes is this remark of a 28-year-old Filipino prostitute: "Of course, I hate this, but there is no other way to make this much money."73 A young Thai woman asks, "Why work in a factory for 2,000 or 3,000 baht a month [$80 to $120], when one man for one night is maybe 1,000 baht?"74 As long as there are no other high-wage jobs available for those women, and as long as prostitution continues to pay more than the less detrimental alternatives, women will continue to choose prostitution in Southeast Asia.

And meanwhile, the official attitude of coercion and condonement is currently fixed because too many people make too much money off the prostitutes. I have spoken of prostitution as among the highest earning jobs a women can get in Southeast Asia, but in fact, "Korea Church Women United estimates that prostitutes receive less than one-thirtieth of the fees their patrons pay."75 Indeed, "Airlines, travel agencies, hotels, madams, pimps - all take a chunk of the prostitutes' earnings"76 - not to mention paid-off policemen and politicians. In one particularly astonishing case, it was reported "in 1979 that the Manila Ramada made forty per cent of its income from extra fees for prostitutes."77 If one can ignore the egregious human costs, the toll that is exacted on the young women involved, prostitution, simply the commodification of a basic human, basic male, desire, is profitable for all persons involved. In this world marketplace, taking into account our unrelenting pursuit of mammon, prostitution, as practiced in Southeast Asia, is merely an efficient, unrelenting articulation of our modern market values applied to male sexuality.