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Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 22:56:18 -0500 (CDT)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: ASIA: Economic Changes Make Prostitution a Growth Industry
Article: 72555
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.14247.19990813121553@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** headlines: 124.0 **/
** Topic: ASIA: Economic Changes Make Prostitution a Growth Industry **
** Written 1:18 PM Aug 10, 1999 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 9:04 PM Jul 26, 1999 by newsdesk@igc.org in ips.english */
/* ---------- "ECONOMY-ASIA: Illegal Sex Business" ---------- */

Illegal Sex Business Adds To National Incomes

By Laxmi Murthy, IPS
26 July 1999

NEW DELHI, Jul 26 (IPS) - From being a shadowy, brothel-based activity, prostitution has become a global business integrated into the economic, social and political life of some Asian countries, regional groups confirm.

In a report for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) last year, its editor Lin Lean Lim wrote the "scale of prostitution has been enlarged to an extent where we can justifiably speak of a commercial sex sector".

Case studies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines revealed the "illegal" sex business has assumed the dimensions of an industry and has directly or indirectly contributed to employment, national income and economic growth.

The Bangkok-based Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) agrees there is a significant shift taking place in prostitution the world over.

"Control is shifting from the hands of women into that of men," says GAATW's Jyoti Sanghera. From the "mamasans" of Malaysia to the "gharwalis" of Maharashtra, western India, the reign of the brothel madam is rapidly waning.

It is fast acquiring the characteristics of an industry - highly organised, wages for work, factory-like atmosphere, anonymity and a complete alienation at the workplace.

Even "the courtesans and geishas peppering literature and folklore have become de-humanised and objectified into anonymous bodies on a dance floor," the Hong Kong-based Zi Teng, a concerned group for sex workers believes.

With well-organised, male-dominated thugs moving in to control prostitution, India's Shanaaz from the Veshya AIDS Muqabala Parishad, a Sangli-based sex workers' collective against AIDS says, "it is a purely commercial transaction" between the men and women.

The globalisation of the sex-industry has made for a uniformity in sexual gratification from India to the Philippines.

Although it was difficult to determine its actual size, ILO estimated that between 0.25-1.5 percent of the total female population in all the four countries are sex workers, and that the sex sector accounts for between 2 and 14 percent of the GDPs.

In India, an estimated 2.3 million women are in prostitution, one fourth of them minors, in more than 1,000 "red light districts" across the country.

In Indonesia, the financial turnover of the sex sector was estimated at between 1.2 and 3.3 billion dollars per year (0.8- 2.4 percent of GDP).

In Thailand, close to 300 million dollars was transferred annually from urban to rural areas by women working in the sex industry. Significantly, this was much larger than the budgets of many development programmes funded by the Thai Government.

The ILO document points out how the increase in disposable incomes of the middle class has meant an enhanced capacity and motivation of men to buy sexual services in a much wider and more sophisticated range of settings.

With technology, the well-entrenched business has gone transnational like the "mail-order brides" of South-east Asia who are selected on the basis of video-film clips, CDs and via the Internet by clients elsewhere in the world.

The sex industry operates through "front" establishments such as night clubs, cocktail lounges, karaoke bars, discotheques, saunas and massage parlours, specially in countries where prostitution is illegal.

Siriporn Skrobanek of the Foundation for Women, Bangkok, says: "Official policies promoting tourism, migration for employment, especially of female labour, which are important sources of foreign exchange earnings, encourage the growth of prostitution and even trafficking." Thailand's income from tourism is about 5 percent of the GDP.

Moreover, macro development policies in developing economies also impact on the proliferation of the sex sector. The virtual disintegration of the public sector, lack of viable employment, the ghettoisation of female labour in poorly paid, contractual work have contributed to the "feminisation of poverty.

The Indonesian study makes the point that workers in the textile, garment, tobacco and electronics industry, 90 percent of whom are female, often do not earn enough money to cover their own living expenses, much less to allow them to remit money to their families.

Yet, absolute poverty cannot be identified as the major cause of prostitution, since, as the ILO Report reveals, all four countries studied recorded substantial economic progress through the nineties until the collapse two years ago.

More important is the pattern of economic development and its social impact. Policies centreing on industrialisation and export orientation have encouraged rapid urban development at the cost of relative neglect of rural areas.

Growing income disparities between rural and urban areas assume larger proportions in the absence of a social safety net. Survival strategies include "voluntarily" entering the sex industry, and families selling children into prostitution.

Sex-workers' unions are demanding recognition of their rights as workers and attempting to extend proper working conditions and freedom from exploitation at the workplace - a demand the ILO supports.


Origin: New Delhi/ECONOMY-ASIA/

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