Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999 22:57:14 -0600 (CST)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: PHILIPPINES: GABRIELA Network Reports on Sex Trafficking
Article: 58239
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** headlines: 187.0 **/
** Topic: PHILIPPINES: GABRIELA Network Reports on Sex Trafficking **
** Written 8:51 AM Mar 17, 1999 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 10:55 PM Mar 8, 1999 by in women.labr */
/* ---------- Across Borders: Sex Trafficking of ---------- */

Date: 02/26 2:05 AM
From: Mario E Santos,
From: Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrant Filipinos <>

Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 16:53:10 +0800
Subject: Bulletin on Sex Trafficking

Across borders: Sex trafficking of women

By Janice Lee Monte, GABRIELA News and Features, 25 February 1999

It is a dream, which turns out to be a nightmare.

Six young Filipinas leave the country with hopes of landing jobs as domestic help in Germany. Instead, they find themselves prostituted in a bar in Nigeria. One escapes to tell the tale. It was a tale everyone has heard before. One that has been told too long too often. Only characters and settings change, the tragic ending remains. Sex trafficking. How many more have yet to be told?

The Philippine economy is in a slump. As the peso plummets, prices of basic commodities and much needed services shoot up while workers are laid off by the thousands and wages remain low. It is an economy artificially kept afloat by exporting human resource. It is a gloomy scenario that feeds and breeds the flesh trade. A scenario where women and children are sold. Exported. Trafficked for sex.


Sex trafficking is the systematic and organized transport of women and children for the purpose of sex for profit. Whether domestic or international, sex trafficking subjects women and children to grave abuse, slavery and exploitation. Women and children, mostly from the provinces, are recruited either for known local tourist and urban centers, such as Manila, Cebu, Baguio and Davao, or overseas. Known international destinations for sex trafficking victims include Australia, Germany, United States, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong, Taiwan, New Zealand, Middle East and the Northern Marianas Islands.

Usually in the guise of hiring for domestic help, waitresses, factory workers, entertainers, etc., sex traffickers often lure their victims with promises of good compensation, high wages and benefits.

Such was the case of six Filipinas reported in June 1998. After being promised jobs as domestic help in Germany, they find themselves in the sex industry in Nigeria. Domestic help in Saudi Arabia have reportedly been forced to work as prostitutes.

In Japan, an estimated 150,000 Asian women, mostly Filipinas and Thais, work as entertainers and commercial sex workers. Filipinas promised jobs have reportedly ended up as lap dancers or nude dancers in various prostitution dens in Canada. In 1995, 150 Filipinas were reportedly sold for sex in Nigeria while five Filipinas have escaped a brothel in Malaysia in January of 1996, all had been recruited either as domestic helpers, salesgirls or factory workers. Cases of hired domestic help being raped by their employers and eventually being sold or rented out have likewise been reported.

A 24-year old hotel and restaurant management graduate believed she was being hired to the Northern Marianas to work for an upscale restaurant, which she later found out was more of a brothel. She later on found herself sold, eventually locked up, tied, beaten and raped daily until she escaped after three weeks. The Reader's Digest reported in its June 1997 issue that in Saipan, a 14-year old Filipina was forced to dance nude in a night club, and have sex with her employer.

While victims may possess legal travel and employment documents, quite a number of documented cases involved the transport of women by illegal means, including via cargo boxes, freezer vans and drums. Gert Ranjo-Libang, executive director of the Center for Women's Resources (CWR) recalled a story a few years back where women were found dead after having been locked in drums for weeks in a cargo vessel. Another case involved women found frozen dead in a van while being transported across borders somewhere in Europe.


Despite the alarming cases of abuse and exploitation among mail-order brides, marriage into the land of milk and honey remains a welcome alternative for the impoverished lot.

In the guise of matchmaking, women are exported into the sex industry. Technology advancement has given the industry a kick as Filipinas seeking marriage are now all over the internet. Several websites have pictures of young women, their names, dreams and other personal information given out.

Interested suitors may then court the girl through email in a click or submit their names and means of contact in exchange for further information on the women. Stories of successful marriages are also given.

In many cases, brides reportedly suffer in the hands of their newfound husbands. They become not only domestic slaves but sex slaves as well. Cases of mail-order brides eventually being sold or rented out either as domestic help or sex slaves have likewise been reported.

GABRIELA Network in New York reported that around 5,000 Filipinas enter the US annually as mail-order brides. There are an estimated 20,000 Filipina mail-order brides in Australia. Official Australian statistics show that Filipino wives are 6 % more likely to suffer spousal abuse. Means of recruitment for Australia also include serial sponsorship for marriage. A woman is sponsored into Australia for marriage and if this relationship does not work out, another woman is sponsored. Data shows that some men have sponsored as much as seven women. The same arrangement is practiced in New Zealand.

Marriages between Japanese and Filipinos climbed to 7,240 in 1995 from 6,045 in 1994; the number of visas issued to spouses and children of Japanese nationals have increased by 300% from 1995 to 1996. Ninety-nine percent of Filipinos marrying Japanese nationals are women.


With the Philippine economy in shambles, more and more women are forced to take migration, even prostitution, as an option. According to IBON Foundation, in the first ten months of 1998 alone, 2,495 establishments closed down or resorted to retrenchment affecting some 126,608 workers. A hundred thousand of them lost their jobs. Official statistics show 4.28 million Filipinos unemployed. Wages remain insufficient as prices of basic commodities and services continue to rise. A family of six now requires a daily cost of living allowance of P433. A total of three million hectares of agricultural land are targeted for land conversion, threatening to displace peasant families by the thousands and jeopardizing food security. Contrary to government-manipulated statistics, 70 % of the population actually live below the poverty line.

As the peso depreciates, the government scrounges for dollars, turning once more to the dependable Filipinos overseas on the one hand and encouraging tourism on the other.

Branded as the Bagong Bayani or New Heroes, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are virtually slaves in their country of destination. Vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, at least three OFWs return in balikbayan boxes daily. Despite alarming statistics, the government has continued to encourage migration in its labor-export policy. To date, there is an estimated seven million Filipinos overseas distributed in 129 countries. The remittances of OFWs have kept the economy afloat, turning in a total of US $3.16 billion in remittances from January to July alone in 1998.

More and more women on the other hand are forced into the flesh trade. Flourishing in known tourist spots such as Cebu, Baguio, Boracay, Davao and Manila, prostituted women are now dubbed entertainers, Guest Relations Officers (GRO), or commercial sex workers (CSW). Many confess to having been trafficked locally, recruited as salesgirls, waitresses and domestic help. A survey by the newspaper Manila Chronicle revealed that 40% of the young girls surveyed came from peasant families from far provinces. Unable to return home for lack of funds, many are left with nowhere else to go.


Virtually all involved with the flourishing of the flesh trade, including the government, stands to gain with the continuous incidence of sex trafficking.

Sex trafficking excuses the government from its obligations. Instead of producing stable and unexploitative employment for its people, the Philippine government instead banners women and children as tourist attractions and pushes further its labor-export policy.

At the same time, the dollar remittances of OFWs are the virtual life raft for the sinking economy. MIGRANTE International further reports that, aside from their remittances, the government earns over P5 million daily from other financial extraction to the OFWs. Upon arrival, more fee exaction is required for OFWs.

It is no wonder, therefore, that despite the alarming statistics, the government continues to encourage the export of human resources, the flourishing of sex trade and enforces no concrete measures to prevent sex trafficking.

Despite RA 6955 in 1996 (An Act Declaring Unlawful the Practice of Matching Filipino Women for Marriage to Foreign Nationals on Mail-Order Basis or Other Similar Practices), the continuous increase in the number of mail-order brides has been noted, and it does not help at all that the government does not impose any form of control on such practices proliferating in the internet.

Recruiters, matchmakers and sex traffickers: all profit immensely from the flourishing sex industry. Recruiters in Olongapo City, for instance, are paid P1,000 for each girl recruited and brought to the club (GABRIELA, 1998).

A certain Berndt Lauks brings German nationals to meet Filipinas. Lauks reportedly charges US $10,000 to $15,000 per customer (Daily Star, June 1993). Filipino women had reportedly been sold in Japan at US $2,400 to US $18,000. Some were rented out for the monthly charge of US $1,600 to US $6,400. Women usually do not receive any part of such transactions, until all travel expenses have been repaid. (CATW, 1996).

In 1996, 984 Filipinas were married into a Korean religious sect after being matched by a computer. A US $2,000 fee was said to have been collected from each of the grooms. Documented cases include women eventually being sold into prostitution upon arrival in Korea.

Aside from recruiters, bar and hotel owners likewise profit from sex trafficking. Fifteen of the 18 hotels, and 40 of the 70 bars, in Angeles City are owned by Australian nationals. (There are now over 20,000 Filipina mail-order brides in Australia). The department of Tourism has likewise identified 19 prostitution houses and 109 prostitution fronts, including clubs, beach resorts, restaurants, massage parlors and disco houses.


Women are made more vulnerable, forced into migration, prostitution and abuse by the worsening economic crisis. Poverty leaves women with very little, if any, choice at all.

The seemingly oblivious state is, in itself, a major player in the sex trade. The current administration under President Joseph Estrada pursues the previous administrations' economic policies of liberalization, privatization and deregulation, thus giving birth to one crisis after another. It religiously follows the prescriptions of the IMF-World Bank and the WTO even at the expense of Filipinos being pushed further into poverty. Worse, it seems that among the viable solutions to the crisis involves the wholesale offering of women and children.

Among recruiters, bar owners, matchmakers and pimps, the government itself is a vehicle for the continuing and worsening incidence of sex trafficking. The government plays the tormentor's accomplice in this unending tragedy.