Sunday Essays: In the red light district

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

THE phenomenon of prostitution has now become more prevalent in Davao.

According to Talikala Incorporated, a non-government organization, an estimated number of 400,000 to 600,000 women and children are bought and sold for prostitution here and abroad.

"In Metro Davao alone, there are some 4,000 women and children exploited. Forty percent of which are below 18 years old," said Carina Sajonia, Talikala Advocacy Program Officer.

Twenty-two-year old Didi (not her real name) started as a "shine" girl when she was still in high school. Her first customers were taxi drivers before she had her rich men costumers.

"I don't have a father and my mother can't support my financial needs in school. I have friends in school back then who happened to have money despite their financial status. And so, out of curiosity, I asked. That's when I started to engage into prostitution," said Didi.

“I get to receive P1,500 as the biggest amount of money and P1,000 as the lowest from rich men,” Didi said.

Prostitution is not taboo in the city, there are prostitutes in bars, clubs, other entertainment establishments, and even on the streets.

According to Sajonia, the government tolerated and institutionalized prostitution which they would just preferably call ‘entertainment’ to earn money.

Assistant Regional Director (ARD) Wilhelm M. Suyko, CESO IV of Department of the Interior and Local Government however did not deny in an interview that it is part of the tourism business.

“People come and go. They have no entertainment for the evening so a city would tolerate having this than having this out because it has been observed that cities without this become ghost towns,” ARD Suyko stated.

Meanwhile, human trafficking in persons happens because of the lack of job opportunities and eroding incomes.

"Buyers (men) and poverty are just two of the many reasons why prostitution is still ongoing in the city. They see women and children as secondary class – things that can be used for their own personal satisfaction," said Sajonia.

Hiring agencies and pimps take all the opportunities to breed prostitution among women and children who settle for dismal option in times of greater crisis.

Ann (not her real name), once worked in a casa in Cebu where she said they were displayed to be chosen by their foreigner clients.

“We receive P5,000 but we only get to have P500 share of it because the rest goes to the casa,” Ann recalled.

Nevertheless, the country’s import-dependent and export-driven economy has trapped many Filipinos in the cycle of economic crisis.

“Sulu, Tawi-tawi, and Zamboanga are backdoors going to Malaysia, Indonesia and other nearby countries – it’s easy using the backdoor,” ARD Suyko said.

Talikala Inc. in 2012 recorded that there are 1,000 prostituted women and children who were registered to have occupational permits and appointment cards under the City Treasurers Office.

These women, young and old, use their occupational permits for their daily check-ups and health maintenance for their own protection in the Productive Health and Wellness Center.

“The government puts up some measures, particularly in their health. We recognize sex workers/entertainers in our society,” added ARD Suyko.

Now, Didi and Ann are both under the care of Talikala, Inc, where they are given livelihood assistance in partnership with City Social Services and Development Office.

Also, they continuously undergo seminars, trainings, and activities in the organization to empower the women and children and help improve their quality of life.

However, as a non-profit social development organization, Talikala Inc. lacks sponsorship to sustain their advocacy and implement all their plans. They are calling out for help and support to their advocacy in order to suppress human trafficking in persons and promote development in the society. (Joanna Marie Sim, Ateneo de Davao University student)

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