I have spent 13 years living on the outskirts of one of the most famous red light districts in Asia, Singapore’s Geylang District. I have personally seen girls being forced into the sex trade at the legal but very tender age of 16. That is probably why I appreciated the Aidan Maconachy’s missive on legalizing prostitution to protect their rights and to effect betterment for their status in society.
I would like to lend an alternate perspective to this matter, in the way of the sex trade scene here in Singapore. It is a paradoxical picture one that defies easy categorization and analysis.
The sex trade in Singapore is indubitably lucrative. Recent reports on the charges instituted by prostitutes on their clientle have suggested that prostitution earns the worker between US$1000 to US$7000, where the average wage is US$1500. Foreign illegal sex workers earn more than 10 times their usual wage in a period of a month, and return home to avoid immigration scrutiny, to return after a 6 month hiatus.
Local sex workers have also found equal success in the fields. Transvestite sex workers are chiefly seen as “lower grade”, but still manage to earn over US$3000. Students studying for diplomas have been spotted earning quick cash in karaoke dens providing “special” services.
While it is tragic that there are still sex workers who have been beguiled into slavery in brothels, there is an illegal ring of very willing sex workers thriving in a booming sex trade. These would have easily led to uncontrollable surges in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and a host of other illegal gang activities. Yet, thanks to legalization and strict enforcement of legislation on prostitution laws, the government has been able to constitutionally keep tabs on the situation.
It is too straightforward to paint the prostitute in a victim’s light here in Asia, regardless of their background – it is practically one of the most top-paying jobs. An effort to bring betterment to their social status seems moot because in reality, prostitutes and prostitution rings are in a better financial situation than most.
In this context, if legalization can do anything, it should regulate and control prostitution to prevent abuse be it in terms of controlling an otherwise reckless economy, or unwilling souls sold to slavery.