Prostitution in the Philippines

By Claire Felices in Quezon City

Prostitution – strictly speaking it is the exchange of sexual relations for monetary compensation.

When the Spaniards first came and colonised the Philippines, there was no record of the oldest profession in the world being practiced, the laws of the land were strict against illicit behaviour between men and women . They were shocked though, at how unchaste the natives were because they did not value their virginity and have the kind of society with the sexual freedom that allows men to offer and initiate an inexperienced woman into the sexual act to teach her how to please a man. Yet, even with this freedom, the laws became an effective deterrent against promiscuity and prostitution.

The Colonised Philippines

The Spaniards came and ‘discovered’ the Philippines with a crucifix on one hand and a sword on the other. They denounced the immoral and backward practices of the natives. They preached obedience, chastity and piety which did not apply to themselves. Years and decades hence saw a rise in the number of half Spanish half Filipino children most born out of wedlock. Brothels housed young women mostly children of poor folk paying their parents’ debts, some gravitate towards prostitution after being raped or forced to become a sex slave by Spanish officials and colonizers.

The Americans came to a Philippines when even the women of the night were classed according to their skin colour and age. The younger and fairer they are, the pricier they became. There were certain sections of the city where the nights are even busier than City Hall during the day. The Spaniards have been driven out, a feeling of oppression was lifted. But still, everything is divided in favour of the Americans this time.

The Japanese occupation was the worst in Philippine history. Many parents unwillingly sent their daughters away, or tried to hide them by making them wear men’s clothes and help in the fields for fear they would be taken from their homes forcibly. But soon even their sons too, were abducted, forced into labour, young women were turned into comfort women – a prostitution corps that serviced the Japanese Imperial Army. The men and women that survived showed signs similar to post traumatic stress disorder years after their ordeal.

Then and Now

The Philippines’ strategic location became the ultimate lure for other nations; during time of peace, for global trade and in conflict for strategic defense. This is one of the reasons the United States entered into Military Bases Agreement with the Philippines in 1947. This period saw a rise in bars, clubs and brothels around the bases. American bases meant American soldiers, American dollars – at the very least, food for the next 24 hours. Long term goal, the American dream for the club girls.

But let’s make it clear, prostitution in the Philippines is against the law. It is readily available through bars, karaoke bars (KTV), mall hallways, street walkers, escort services and massage parlours. Readily available, but against the law. Poverty seems to be the main reason why most of them enter this profession. They know the risks and can deal with the stigma associated.
Everybody knows it exists, but as it is illegal in the Philippines, there is no set laws except that it is illegal. No rule of thumb, set prices or guidelines to improve their working conditions. So more often than not, they’re screwed. Over and over again.

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