Women forced into prostitution getting younger

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 Sept) — Women forced into prostitution are getting younger each year, the women’s groups Talikala and Lawig Bubai said with alarm.

Jeanette Ampog, Talikala executive director, said girls as young as 9 or 10 years old are already seen in the streets of Davao, forced into prostitution by poverty and want.

Cindy Golosinda, chair of Lawig Bubai, said a 10-year-old stow-away girl was seen at the Ecoland videoke houses only last week in the company of men “customers.”

The girl told Lawig Bubai she had run away from home in General Santos city where she was frequently beaten by her family.

“For every 10-year-old you see prostituted on the streets, there are still 10 more who are not visible,” said Carina Sajonia, Talikala program coordinator. Ampog said two more girls were seen in Agdao, where the group estimates at least 30 girls as young as 10 years old have been prostituted.

In 2007, Lawig Bubai found a nine-year-old girl prostituted on the streets but even before they could rescue the child, an aunt who was looking for the child’s “customers” was able to hide her and scuttle her away. The child was never seen again.

Belen Antoque, Lawig Bubai secretary general, said they usually help the minors go back to their families but if this is no longer possible, they seek the help of the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO). “It’s not the right of men to buy women for sexual purposes,” said Antoque.

But she said the state of women and children in the country only reflects the larger condition of the society where they live.

“As long as farmers could not own the land they till, as long as workers remain exploited, as long as poverty exists, women and children will continue begging in the streets,” Antoque said. Both Talikala and Lawig Bubai have been extending their services to prostituted women.

Prostitution, Ampog said, is “illegal” in the Philippines but the city business bureau continues issuing “occupational permits” to guest relations officers (GROs), taxi dancers and massage attendants, works which provide an entryway to prostitution.

She said the issuance of these “occupational permit,” coupled by the close monitoring of their health cards, seem to imply the government’s “tacit approval of the prostitution.”

Ampog said the Tax Code of the Philippines requires prostituted women to pay P75 to P100 tax per year. Sajonia said that of the estimated 6,000 prostituted women in Davao city alone, only 2,811 of them registered with the government. She said most of them work as “freelance” in establishments which do not have permits. (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)