Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 22:56:18 -0500 (CDT)
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: ASIA: Economic Changes Make Prostitution a Growth Industry
/** 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 firstname.lastname@example.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
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
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
Origin: New Delhi/ECONOMY-ASIA/
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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