Prostitution in the Philippines A time for change Introduction A Jesuit priest was asked to write the foreword of a book that deals with prostitution and human trafficking in the Philippines. He wrote the following: A foreigner came to our country. Then, as so many foreigners cheerfully do, he published his first deep impressions. The last sentence of his article was sad. He said: "The tragedy of the Philippines is this: in one of the world's loveliest countries, some of the world's most beautiful girls are being sold for money to some of the world's ugliest men. The priest, FRR. James Reuters, SO, then made the point that when the trees are threatened people voice their indignation, when the fishing stocks are in danger then people protest, when land is sold unjustly then there is a surge of resentment but "when our beautiful girls are sold for money, the great rank and file of our people do not move. " It is as if the reality of prostitution has been around for so long that nothing can be done. But the girls and children are worth much more than the fish, the trees and the land. Let us not presume that nothing can be done!
At one time slavery was noninsured "normal" and inevitable even though it was unpleasant, yet it is now considered to be an injustice against human rights. Perhaps one day we will look back on prostitution in the same way. What is prostitution? Some definitions and descriptions such as "entertainment," "SE x work," "hosting," "world's oldest profession" and "guest relations officer" are not helpful as they make prostitution invisible, legitimate, or trivial. Prostitution is actually the sale of persons, most often women and children, for profit and sexual gratification of another. Prostitution is in fact a violation and exploitation of basic human rights and human dignity. It takes advantage of vulnerable populations particularly women, children, and the poor . Prostitution is In the Philippine Anti-prostitution Bill of 2009, it is defined as "any act, transaction, scheme or design involving the use of a person whether woman, man or child, for sexual gratification, exploitation or pleasure of another in exchange for cash, profit or other consideration, or any act that promotes or facilitates the accomplishment of the said act, transaction, scheme or design. Merely a single act where a person is bought for sex but is actually a system, and in it the so-called three "Bi's" are involved: the Business, the Buyer and the Bought ? a) the business, wherein the stakeholders are the pimps and sex establishment owners, b) the buyer, who is a customer with "buying power" and is typically a male, and c) the bought - the person (woman, man or child) whose body serves as the capital as well as the commodity. More than ever before, prostitution has become institutionalized, organized, and globalizes (I. . , through trafficking and the internet). If we look at the streets around s we see the explosion in budget hotels which are so clean but not so good, the all pervasive sight of girl bars and the numerous high class clubs and establishments that seem toccata for so many well-to-do clientele. Different forms of prostitution thus exist: street prostitution, bars, brothels, Kate- bark, "massage parlors," escort services, sex tourism, cyber, local & international sex trafficking.
Prostitution in the Philippines has become a De facto legal industry. How many are involved in prostitution? Even back in the summer of 1982, Manila was depressingly tagged as the biggest rather in Asia. There were 50,000 registered hospitality girls in the tourist entertainment industry in the early ass's, and in 1987 there were 300,000 bar girls, not to mention the unlicensed ones who were estimated to number about h of the national figure then. In 1998 it was estimated that there were at least 400,000 to 500,000 prostituted persons in the Philippines with 75,000 of these being children. 7 In her "Anti-prostitution Act" (Senate Bill No. 2341), Senator Pip S. Cetacean cites the number of women being exploited in prostitution in the Philippines now ballooning to 800,000. 8 What drives a person into prostitution? In one survey of those engaged in prostitution along Guenon Avenue in Guenon City, the main reasons given by the respondents for being involved were: 1 .
Poverty 2. Under - employment or lack of employment opportunities 3. Physical or sexual abuse 4. Drug dependence and other vices 5. Lack of education 6. Peer influence Other factors cited by Nags involved in anti-prostitution work include a) coming from dysfunctional homes, b) deception by recruiters, c) pornography, d) tourism that capitalizes on Filipino women and e) a general apathy of the society and Church towards this reality. It is important to be aware of these so-called "push-pull" factors.
People who work in ministries seeking to rescue and rehabilitate prostituted women will tell you that they have never met a woman who wanted to be a prostitute; instead, they will recount countless stories of young women coming from poor backgrounds who often have a long history of prior physical and sexual abuse. Many young women are deceived by recruiters to leave the province, where work opportunities may be few and far between, and come to the big city with the promise of decent work. Upon arriving there, the vulnerable person is often tricked or even recorded into working in the sex industry.
Short shelf life of women involved in prostitution In a study of prostitution along Guenon Avenue, 243 prostituted women (PI) were interviewed. 12 Of the 243 PI, 45% were aged between 18-22 years old, 30% between 23-27 years old and 11% between 28-32 years old. The relatively young age of the prostituted women reflects what is called "the short shelf life" of a woman forced into prostitution --the life is so inhuman and degrading that before long untold physical and psychological harm is incurred. As Melissa Farley clearly documents, prostitution is bad for the DOD and bad for the heart. 3 She states that "throughout history, regardless of its legal status, prostitution has had a devastating impact on women's health. " 14 This can be seen in the many physical and psychological consequences of this destructive lifestyle. Some findings include: When a girl has been a victim of sexual abuse, which can often be in the form of incest, deep wounds are created in her psyche. This often leads to a reduced sense of self-worth and a low self-esteem. She becomes an easy prey to recruiters and may offer less resistance to a life in prostitution because her integrity has already been resourceful violated.
Sexual violence and physical assault are the norm for women in all types of prostitution Healthfulness include exhaustion, frequent viral illness, Studs, vaginal infections, back aches, sleeplessness, depression, headaches, stomachaches, and eating disorders Post traumatic stress disorder is a consequence of prostitution as are mood disorders such as dissociation and depression Prostituted women are at a higher risk of being murdered Rights of persons exploited in prostitution 16 The fundamental rights of persons exploited in prostitution should not be forgotten and need to be upheld. These include:
The right to be treated as human beings The right to dignity and security The right against any form of discrimination The right to be protected by the law The right to be protected from abuse and exploitation The right to seek redress for violations of their rights and to have their complaints appropriately addressed The right to fair and human treatment The right to sensitive and appropriate legal, health and other social services The right to organize themselves as survivors and fight for their legitimate concerns Addressing the demand One way to reduce the impact of prostitution would be to criminality the demand did, thus making the buying or attempted buying of sex illegal. The one who should be prosecuted is the buying customer, or the pimp or establishment owner, not the women exploited in prostitution. If a brothel is raided, often the women involved are arrested and taken to prison.
The male customers are not detained and are usually let off Scot free. The sex institution and its owner are not penalized but instead are allowed to carry on business as usual. Reports of human rights abuses exist whereby arrested prostituted women are not treated fairly or are made to offer sexual favors o Law Enforcement Officers before being released from custody. Some No's are campaigning to criminality the demand side, making the procurement of prostitution illegal similar to legislation in Sweden where the paying or offering to pay for sexual services is a criminal offense: In Sweden the spotlight now shines very clearly on all purchasers of commercial sex, and their role in supporting the sex trade'.
This new approach has sparked a public debate that has caused communities to think afresh about whether the purchase of sex on their streets and in their neighborhoods is acceptable. Since the new policy as introduced the numbers of women involved in street-based prostitution has significantly decreased. Although some may have moved to work indoors, the policy is claimed as a success based in no small part on the extensive level of support available to those women who wish to leave the streets. 18 Janice Raymond, in a thought provoking analysis, gives ten reasons for not legalizing prostitution. 19 Some reasons for not making it legal are that legalization of prostitution is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry.
Legalization also promotes sex trafficking, expands the sex industry and increases child prostitution. Money is the root of all evil Big money is involved and this is another reason why the prostitution industry thrives. 20 The prostitution business worldwide is linked to the market in human trafficking which ensures that the demand for various shapes and sizes of women's bodies is met. Trafficking is now estimated to be a $57 billion global industry. In addition, prostitution is not only linked to trafficking but also to internet pornography. According to a social worker involved in helping rehabilitate prostituted women, "internet pornography is the theory; prostitution is the practice.
This chilling remark opens our eyes to the devastating effects of internet pornography which is flooding our society. 21 When men view pornography their sexual desires are often fanned into a raging flame. What they have Just viewed is very often outside the bounds of decency and their wives would in no way consent to the re-enactment of such immoral scenes which typically involve male domination or sexual violence towards the female. Seeing as his wife or girlfriend would never consent, the man feels he has a right to buy such perverted gratification through the use of a woman in prostitution. Hidden in plain sight We have made prostitution "hidden in plain sight. " It is everywhere but we try to ignore it.
The US Ambassador Harry Thomas drew attention to the problem when he commented that 40 percent of male tourists come to the Philippines for sex. Many senators were livid and asked him to produce evidence to support his claim. 23 The senators were obviously desperate to protect the good name and reputation of their country. It would be Just and fitting if they had the same zeal to protect the good name and dignity of many women who are involved in the sex trade here in the Philippines. Moreover, neither should it be naively thought that only foreign males go to Filipino prostitutes. In fact, Filipino males are the main users of Filipinos in prostitution. 4 Church teaching regarding prostitution Various Church documents address the issue of prostitution. In the Second Vatican Council, prostitution and the selling of women and children are seen as crimes against human life. "Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as prostitution, the selling of women and children... Are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator. " 25 The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in number 2355: Prostitution does injury to the dignity of the person who engages in it, reducing the person to an instrument of sexual pleasure.
The one who pays sins gravely against himself: he violates the chastity to which his Baptism pledged him and defiles his body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Prostitution is a social scourge. It usually involves women, but also men, children and adolescents (the latter two cases involve the added sin of scandal). While it is always gravely sinful to engage in prostitution, the immutability of he offense can be attenuated by destitution, blackmail or social pressure. 26 The whole of the catechists of Pope John Paul Sis's landmark study of the "Theology of the Body' gives us a renewed and redeemed vision of the meaning of the body and the true purpose of human sexuality. 7 By referring to the words of Christ, the Pope delves into the deeper meaning of the state of man and woman in Genesis. The man of innocence who becomes the man of concupiscence is thus invited by Christ to become a redeemed man. Even when Christ tells us that however looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery (see Matthew 5:27-28) , the Pope sees here not an accusation but a calling. 28 A calling to rediscover that gaze of Genesis when man looked at woman and proclaimed her as "flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones" (see Genesis 2:23). This new vision is only possible with new eyes and only in Christ can we put on this new redeemed man.
Pope Benedict XVI makes reference to the dignity and beauty of human sexuality in Dues Caracas Est, his first encyclical: Eros, reduced to pure "sex", has become a commodity, a mere "thing" to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great "yes" to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will True, Eros tends to rise "in ecstasy' towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing. 29 Overall what is needed is indeed a new ventilation.
In Verb Domino,the recent post-synod's exhortation, we find that in "the face of widespread confusion in the sphere of affectively, and the rise of ways of thinking which trivialize the human body and sexual differentiation, the word of God reaffirms he original goodness of the human being, created as man and woman and called to a love which is faithful, reciprocal and fruitful. " 30 Conclusion - a time for change In the book of Exodus, we hear the appeal of our Lord: "l have heard the cry of my people and I have come down to rescue them from their suffering" (see Exodus 3:7-8). Surely there is no cry louder than that of the women and children forced into prostitution.
We know that Jesus himself had a compassionate heart for women whom society derided and despised: the Samaritan woman with her 5 husbands, the adulterous woman caught in the act and even "the sinful woman" whose reputation receded her (see Luke 7:off. Jesus was not afraid of criticism because he did not come for the righteous but for those in need of salvation and redemption. As Church today, called to be a living continuation of our Lord's galvanic mission, we have to be close to all those in suffering and in need. The opening words of Stadium et esp. reinforce this appeal, calling the followers of Christ to be close to those who suffer, and to make their grief and anxieties our own. 31 This is in harmony with the appeal of SST.
Paul to all the members of the body of Christ when he wrote to the Church of Corinth two thousand years ago ? if one part of the body suffers then all the parts suffer with it" (see 1 Corinthians 12:26). We cannot be a Church that deals with these challenging issues at arm's length but rather need to be involved. A song called "Speak my Word" challenges us to not Just sit around, keep silent and do nothing to help "Look at you now, are you all right with what you see? This anti what it's supposed to be Is it enough not to care Just because you are not there? Is it enough to be far and safe? Is it enough to live with ease and not give a damn to others needs? Is it enough to mind your own? " Prostitution "exists because significant numbers of men are given social, moral and legal permission to buy women on demand. 32 As Church we need to work to change cultural standards, to not simply accept the evil of prostitution but to denounce it, especially the demand side. As the CAT-AP branch notes, "ultimately gender relations must be restructured so that sexuality can once again be an experience of human intimacy and not a commodity to be bought or sold. " 33 How rarely is the topic of demand for prostitution broached. Have you ever heard a homily asking why we are so apathetic as a society in front of these realities? Have you heard a priest ever speaking out to denounce the sex establishments existing in his parish? We should not simply presume that nothing can be done.
As Christians we are asked to fight the good fight, not to throw in the towel! As the popular expression runs, "evil happens when good people do nothing. " More thought should also be given to considering why men in particular go to prostitutes. The famous English writer G. K. Chesterton said that the man who knocks on the door of a brothel is searching for God. It is not only to denounce the men who buy women but also perhaps to seek and pray for their conversion. In Jesus' recounting of the parable of the prodigal son who spent his inheritance on prostitutes, the father did not disown him but instead received him back with mercy. What can be done concretely?
I was once awestruck when I read that seminarians prayed their rosary once a week outside a sex establishment! Here are some concrete suggestions: To pray for those involved in prostitution, in particular for the conversion of men who buy women, and for a change of heart and mind for the pimps who sell them and for the sex establishment owners who encourage the industry. Organize a rosary and procession outside and alongside the sex establishments and girl bars in your neighborhood or parish area. As a parish priest, to deal with the theme in catechists or in a homily where adults are listening. It would not be prudent to address this theme in front of minors. If giving a retreat it could be a theme that is dealt with or made reference to.
Create and sign a petition to close down nearby sex clubs. For theological schools to offer courses that study and analyze prostitution and trafficking. Work to cut down the influence of internet pornography. For more Religious Sisters to be concerned and involved in the plight of prostituted women. For a more vocal questioning of why many tourists are coming to the Philippines for sexual purposes. To denounce sex establishments and other places which have become a haven for prostitution. To support an MONGO such as the Samaritan Transformation Ministries or the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. Perhaps what is needed most of all is a more focused and targeted Church ministry.
Some sisters have made big efforts to combat the ills of prostitution but as Church we could do more. Certain groups are doing sterling work but a lone ranger mentality will provide only partial solutions. What is needed is for No's, government efforts, unconcerned lay groups and the Church to combine forces but this also needs coordination. We necessarily have pastoral offices or committees to deal with mining issues, deforestation, people with special needs and a whole gamut of Church and pastoral concerns but no specific ministry to deal with prostitution. Yet this reality alone probably involves 800,000 women. Perhaps this is the single biggest pastoral concern that has no specific office or personnel directed to it.
A suggestion could be for the Catholic Church to set up a national coordinator to harness or collaborate with the efforts of various personnel and No's working in this area. It is time for a renewal, a real Church presence to our prostituted brothers and sisters, a stronger denouncement of the customers frequenting prostitutes and a clearer and more vocal criticism of those running lascivious spas and sex establishments. I close with the appeal made by FRR. Reuters ringing powerfully in my ears ? "Each of us has an obligation, in conscience, to reach out to our people, to those who are in need. The poor girl trapped in prostitution is the bottom of the barrel ? the one most desperately in need. Each of us can do something! If only we would try! " If only we would try. It is time for change