The Legalization of Prostitution in the Philippines


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The Legalization of Prostitution in the Philippines

  1. 1. Babb 1Michelle L. BabbMs. CloverTSEA: Period 326 May 2010 The Legalization of Prostitution in the Philippines: Ineffective Change“Prostitution will always lead into a moral quagmire in democratic societies withcapitalist economies; it invades the terrain of intimate sexual relations yet beckons forregulation. A society’s response to prostitution goes to the core of how it choosesbetween the rights of some persons and the protection of others” (“Quotes on…”) ~ Barbara Meil Hobson The Philippines, one of the eleven Southeast Asian nations, is home to manyqualities that make it appealing to both foreigners and locals alike: beautiful beaches,delicious delicacies, and spectacular sights to behold. However, beyond the seeminglyinnocent façade that some men, women, and children hide behind, the Philippines holds atroubling reality: the nation makes millions of dollars from its illegal sex-trade industry(Baguioro). It is believed that there are about a million sex-industry workers in thePhilippines, a third of them minors under the age of 18 (How). Of those, approximately400,000 to 500,000 of them are prostitutes specifically, and while a majority are adultwomen, there are males, transvestites, and children of both sexes working as prostitutesin the Philippines. Commonly from semi-rural and urban areas, these prostitutes haveoften been victimized through acts of incest and other forms of sexual abuse (qtd. inHughes). However, it is believed that the legalization of prostitution may prove to bebeneficial for the developing nation. Some believe that the legalization of prostitution
  2. 2. Babb 2may expand the sex-trade industry in the Philippines, thus creating a steadier flow ofincome for a nation that already receives millions from its illegal activities (Baguioro).Additionally, by legalizing prostitution, it is believed that government regulations may beimplemented to protect and shelter prostitutes from physical and sexual harm, as well assexually transmitted diseases (STDs) (Liberator). Nevertheless, despite numerousbenefits for the prostitutes as well as the Philippines itself, prostitution should not belegalized, as it is believed to create economic difficulties for those in the sex tradeindustry; may not assure the protection of the prostitutes, specifically prostituted children;and may not guarantee the reduction of highly widespread diseases. The legalization of prostitution, a multimillion-dollar industry in the Philippines,may increase gross domestic product for the still-developing nation, and may even savemoney for the Philippine government. Because of the economic hardships the nation hasbeen facing since the late 1990s, the predominantly Catholic nation has begun acceptingthis line of work as the answer to the Filipinos’ monetary difficulties (Baguioro). In a2000 study conducted by the University of Philippines, it was estimated that the illegalsex-trade industry was the fourth largest source of revenue for the Philippines (Baguioro).In some of the poorest regions of the Philippines, parents even coax their children towork in the illegal sex-trade industry overseas, hoping that their children can send backmoney for their families and profits for the country (Baguioro). Examples of the effect ofprohibiting illegal activities can be witnessed throughout history, illustrating that banshave little to prevent the demand for underground industries, one of which includes thesex trade. For example, when alcohol was prohibited in the United States from 1920 to1933, the United States government lost approximately $9 million trying to restrict the
  3. 3. Babb 3consumption of bootlegged alcohol. In addition, the government lost an innumerableamount of money that may have, instead, been gained from the sale of alcohol(Liberator). Therefore, applying this to prostitution would illustrate that the sex trade is agrowing industry, and some people believe that, in order to expand the Philippineeconomy to the best of its ability, prostitution should be legalized. However, if prostitution were legalized, the prostitutes themselves may find thatearning money would become a more difficult goal to achieve. Many prostitutes admitthat it is already difficult to save what they have earned because of “expenses” for pimpsand brothel owners (Martin). For example, women have begun offering outdoor“massages” to foreigners for the Philippine peso equivalent of only $7.00 (Martin).Though the work of these women is not correlated with the particular resort, it is notuncommon to discover that the owners of these resorts secretly demand a fraction of eachwoman’s earnings (Martin). In rural areas of the Philippines, women, men, and childrenare lured into the world of prostitution with the simplest of offerings: fish, coffee, or evenrice (Martin). Additionally, in the Philippines, a term known as “prosti-tuition” has beenon the rise; the word is currently used to describe schoolgirls looking to pay for their highschool or college tuition by soliciting clients in common areas such as the local mall(Baguioro). Alas, the young girls that solicit these possible clients are as young as 12years old (Baguioro). Thus, prostitution should not be legalized, as these prostitutedwomen, men, and children already illustrate ample economic difficulties without externalsources such as the government demanding commissions from these sexual acts. On the other hand, by legalizing prostitution, some believe that regulations maybe implemented to help protect prostitutes from physical abuse, sexual abuse, and the
  4. 4. Babb 4spread of sexually transmitted diseases. If it were to be legalized, the Philippinegovernment may create guidelines and policies that would require regular medicalexaminations for prostitutes, preventing STDs and other ailments from being knowinglyor unknowingly spread, in addition to offering birth control options for women ofchildbearing age (Liberator). Additionally, legalized prostitution may allow prostitutesthe ability to safely escape the dangerous underground sex-trade industry (Liberator). Byimplementing strict regulations on how prostitutes work, it is also believed that theoverall rate of people suffering from STDs will also decrease (Baguioro). If prostitutionwere to be legalized, the situations of these sex-industry workers may be managed andhelped instead of brushed aside and ignored (Liberator). As a result, legalization mayhave the profound ability of providing a safe haven for these men, women, and childrenin the lucrative sex-trade industry. Conversely, the legalization of prostitution may not assure the protection ofprostitutes and may not guarantee a decrease in the amount of minors working in theindustry. In the Philippines, Filipino men rarely notice whether a prostitute he hassolicited is looks 15 or 25 (qtd. in Hughes). This illustrates how dangerous the industry isin general, but more so for those under the age of 18, or of legal consent. It is because ofthis that prostituted children remain as damaged souls even after efforts to rehabilitatethem (qtd. in Hughes). These children are treated as though they are adults working in thebusiness. It is incorrectly believed that child prostitutes cannot carry diseases like adultprostitutes are able to, and as a result, the numbers of prostituted children are constantlyon the rise. Even if prostitution were to be legalized, there is no scientific evidence thatchildren who have ever been involved within the sex industry have the ability to forget
  5. 5. Babb 5the horrors of their sexual encounters, and few of these former child prostitutes have everbeen able to live anything resembling a psychologically healthy life (qtd. in Hughes). Ingeneral, by legalizing prostitution, it may not be assured that violence and sexual abusewill not continue to be committed towards prostituted women, men, and children (qtd. inHughes). Legalizing prostitution, therefore, may not assure protection for women, men,and children in the business, nor can it guarantee a restraint on prostituted children. Additionally, by legalizing prostitution, there is little assurance that the spread ofdisease may not continue to be rampant. For example, the number of prostituted childrensuffering from HIV/AIDS in on the rise (qtd. in Hughes). It is believed that the diseasesof these underage prostitutes are attributed to the relations these children have with olderclients, who have passed the disease from traditional ways (qtd. in Hughes). Additionally,a third of all HIV infections within the nation are accounted for from Filipino workersliving and working in countries such as Japan and Korea (Baguioro). It is because of thisrisky sexual behavior between older men with male, female, transvestite, and childprostitutes that the World Health Organization fears that the Philippines will face an HIVepidemic (Baguioro). Hence, the legalization of prostitution may not assure a restraint onthe spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and other dangerous ailments. In conclusion, despite having clear benefits for the Philippine government as wellas the prostitutes themselves, prostitution in the Philippines should not be legalized andbe viewed as promoting, in any way, the dangerous sex-trade industry. The legalizationof prostitution may not assure what is believed to happen, as the GDP of the nation maynot increase, the Philippine government may not save money, and possible governmentregulations may not help protect and regulate the lifestyles and work habits of over one
  6. 6. Babb 6million prostitutes in the Philippines (qtd. in Hughes). Most importantly though,prostitution should not be regarded, in any way, as a “legitimate business transaction”, asthe exchange between a prostitute and a client has a far greater significance than what theterm may, at first, illustrate. American author Camille Paglia agrees, claiming“prostitution is not just a service industry, mopping up the overflow of male demand,which always exceeds female supply. Prostitution testifies to the amoral power struggleof sex … Prostitutes, pornographers, and their patrons are marauders in the forest ofarchaic night”.
  7. 7. Babb 7 Works CitedBaguioro, Luz. "The rise of prosti-tuition." Philippines Correspondent 6 Apr. 2005,: NewsBank. Web. 12 May 2010.Hughes, Donna M., et al., comps. "Philippines - Facts on Trafficking and Prostitution." Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2010. <http://>.Liberator, Mark. "Legalized Prostitution: Regulating the Oldest Profession." The Liberator – Iconoclastic Electronic Maganizine. N.p., 8 Dec. 2005. Web. 11 May 2010. <>.Martin, Sammy. "Prostitution worsens in poor areas--study." The Manila Times, Philippines 6 Apr. 2005,: NewsBank. Web. 12 May 2010.How, Paul C.H. "BusinessWorld (Philippines): Prostitution fourth largest source of GNP (RP has become one of major." Business World (Philippines) 6 Apr. 2005,: NewsBank. Web. 12 May 2010."Quotes on Prostitution." Notable Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2010. <http://www.>.