Sex workers in Davao down to 4,000, NGO says

DAVAO CITY(MindaNews /24 September)—The estimated number of prostituted women (PW) in this city has decreased to 4,000 this year from 6,000 in 2011 because they were trafficked or have fled the city to become sexual workers in other areas, a non-government organization said today (Monday.)

These women and children are part of the estimated 600,000 PWs in the Philippines today.

Jeanette Ampog, Talikala, Inc. executive director, guesting at the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City Davao, said that human trafficking has become a channel for prostitution to thrive, noting that the recruits below 18 years old mostly end up as sex workers.

She pointed out the reported cases show that recruitment of PWs is rampant in areas where there are mining, military operations and tourism activities.

Among the places she mentioned are Diwalwal in Compostela Valley, San Francisco in Agusan del Sur, both mining areas, and Samal in Davao del Norte, a tourism destination.

Ampog said that the six minors who were earlier rescued in San Francisco bared there are more minor recruits as young as 12 and 14 years old, including two siblings who are from Buhangin this city.

Life cycle

The infamous streets surrounding the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas here tell a life cycle of PWs, Ampog said.

She said PWs are categorized by age groups that have as young as nine years old, and as old as 60 years old, who gets paid as low as P100, or in worst case, for just a cup of coffee.

Lory Pabunag of Lawig Bubai, an organization of some 600 PWs, said the current trend of prostitution involves the first and second generations of the family—the mother and two or three of her children.

Ampog said Talikala, a non-government organization that provides counseling and case management services to PWs here, can only assist 10 percent of the PWs, considering their resources.

She said the government recognizes the problem in prostitution but fails to provide employment and basic social services to women and children, especially those who are victims of prostitution.

“We hope that these women will be given employment opportunities and the children will have access to basic services such as health and education,” Ampog said.

Prostitution is the oldest form of exploitation of women, not the oldest form of women’s profession, she stressed.

Anti-prostitution bill

Mary Ann Sapar, secretary general of Gabriela Southern Mindanao, said the anti-prostitution bill, proposed by representatives of the Gabriela Women’s Partylist, is still pending in Congress.

The bill, she added, will decriminalize and rehabilitate PWs, and penalize customers, pimps or operators of PWs.

She said that Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan will give updates on the bill in a forum on prostitution in Ateneo de Davao University on October 5, which is the international day of “no prostitution.”

The main actors in the forum will be the PWs themselves in order to narrate their experiences and how prostitution has affected their lives even after they decided to stop being a victim, Ampog told reporters.

As part of the commemoration, the Talikala will conduct a free medical mission such as pap smear test, among other medical services for women, on October 3 in its office at 2 Sputnik St., Doña Vicenta Village here. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)