Kontakt / contact     Hauptseite / page
                principale / pagina principal / home     zum Asien-Index
<<        >>

Sex slaves: trafficking of women in Asia

Chapter Eight: Life and Death

8.1: AIDS with prostitutes in Asia -- 8.2: Life in Asian brothel prisons -- 8.3: Principle of brothel prisons: pretty girls with more clients and more income -- 8.4: Without condom in Asia - more customers in Asia -- 8.5: Surveillance, guards, and life in a brothel prison -- 8.6: Drugs and medicine for prostitutes - AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) -- 8.7: Contraception and abortions with prostitutes in Asia -- 8.8: Estimations of AIDS with prostitutes in Asia -- 8.9: TB with Asian prostitutes -- 8.10: Psychological damage with Asian prostitutes -- 8.11: "Culture" of brothel prisons -- 8.12: Competition between prostitutes - and good and terrorist mama-sans -- 8.13: Prostitution careers -- 8.14: Income of prostitutes

by Louise Brown

presented and with subtitles by Michael  Palomino (2013)



8.1: AIDS with prostitutes in Asia

Successful careers in prostitution rarely last long. Unfortunately, neither do many of the young women who provide sexual services. HIV / AIDS is taking a terrible toll of sex workers in areas like northern Thailand, Cambodia and parts of India.

Here, the majority of a whole generation of prostitutes is being wiped out by disease. Even those women who chose to sell sex never imagined that the decision to join the business would be tantamount to a death sentence. Ironically, those girls who were lured and forced into the trade because customers demanded young, 'clean' and disease-free prostitutes have some of the highest rates of HIV. Many of these victims of disease, and of the sex trade, were recruited in their mid-teens. They will be discarded [sorted out] chte" Arbeitby the consumers and the brothel owners when they are in their early twenties and they will die before they are thirty.

8.2: Life in Asian brothel prisons

Brothels are the place to buy very young girls and women. Although a few physically attractive and highly skilled women continue to sell sex in brothels into their thirties, most brothels place an (p.210)

emphasis on youth. Cheap youth. Women therefore rarely work in brothels for more than a few years before they move on to other sectors of the sex industry. Their time in the brothel is marked by two stages: seasoning and acclimatisation. Once they have been initiated into the trade they condition themselves to life in the brothels [which are often brothel prisons]. This is not because most like the work, but because they have no other option.

Japan: another murder case of a terrorist mama-san

Prostitution is not 'easy' work for most brothel-based women. For a start they have to be available to service men almost constantly. The Thai women involved in the Shimodate Case in Japan (which was another instance of a mama-san who was killed by debt-bonded sex workers) explained that they had to work in the nightclub every day of the year except New Year's Eve. They were not even given time off during their periods.

Cambodia with 24 hours opening time

In Cambodia, most of the girls who worked in brothels reported that their brothels were open twenty-four hours a day during holidays. Women working in brothels on the Thai-Cambodian border shared similar experiences and were expected to work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week [1].

[1] Global Alliance Against the Traffic in Women, International Organization for Migration and the Cambodian Women's Development Association: Cambodian and Vietnamese Sex Workers Along the Thai-Cambodian Border, March 1997, p.12

Philippines with 24 hours on-call service

Girls in the casas of the Philippines have no regular working hours. They have to be on twenty-four-hour call and must service any customers the mama-san sends them. They have no control over the number of men they have to service. Ninety-five per cent of these girls work a seven-day week [2].

[2] Virginia A. Miralo, Celia O. Carlos, Aida Fulleros Santos: Women Entertainers in Angeles and Olongapo: A Survey Report (Manila: WEDPRO, 1990), p.16-19
[Supplement: movie "Selling Sex in Heaven" about town of Angeles
There is a film from CBS "Selling Sex in Heaven" about casas in the Philippines in the town of Angeles in a bar called "Heaven". Angeles was the "American" military base from WWII to the 1990s, and officially prostitution is illegal in the Philippines. "Americans" left behind all infrastructure with bars and a clinic which is working as a control station for sexually transmitted diseases and every girl has to pass an AIDS test every week getting a seal on her bikini that she is "clean". At the same time criminal "Catholic" church is cutting funds for sex education and hindering selling condoms. A bar fee for a customer of a bar is 20 dollars and the bar girl gets the half, 10 dollars. There are shown striking cases showing alcohol problems in families, customers ("boyfriends") wanting homosexual acts with the woman, customers leaving the pregnant prostitute, prostitutes after their career in poor houses and with Amer-Asian children suffering their life without their "American" fathers, the difference of bar mama-sans and mama-sans for prostitutes in very poor casas working for local Filipino men filing the Filipino men up before the cubicle letting in one man every 15 minutes up to 15 customers per day or night, next to dogs, geese and hens and cocks, and the girl gets 15 pesos per customer when the customer pays 100 - and AIDS problems with dying prostitutes [web01] - the movie is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvOTOrKpWKA].

Thailand with child prostitution in Bangkok 7 to 15 customers per day

The Center for the Protection of Children's Rights in Bangkok estimates that Thailand's child prostitutes work for between ten and fourteen hours every day. Usually they service seven clients on weekdays and twice as many at weekends [3].

[3] Center for the Protection of Children's Rights: Preliminary Survey on Regional Child Trafficking for Prostitution in Thailand (Bangkok, 1995), p.47

India: no holidays until to the perfect extortion - trip home "recruiting" more girls for the brothel prison

The concept of holidays and time off is unknown for women and girls in Indian brothels, until they can be trusted not to run away. In practice, this may mean that young prostitutes have no freedom for years. Then, once they do have a degree of liberty, they will be allowed only a couple of days off each month. Long-serving ones will be granted a holiday to return to their village to recruit new girls for the industry. This is based on the belief that they (p.211)

cannot escape to begin a new life and will probably make excellent recruiters.

No occupation during the waiting time

Women are not busy all the time they are on call. A large proportion of the day and night is spent waiting around for clients. This time was often described as being 'boring'. Girls said that the routine of life in the brothel was the same every day. They are not allowed out and, apart from the clients, they see the same people every day. Only a relatively small percentage of the women's time is spent servicing the customers. The number of clients a girl receives is dependent upon the brothel and the country in which it is situated. Those in more developed countries, and more prosperous cities, generally service fewer men. In contrast, girls in cheap brothels in poor countries operate on a kind of production line. They may serve ten customers a day, and more on holidays. It is not uncommon in places like Phnom Penh or Mumbai to meet young women who claim to have serviced twenty men every day.

8.3: Principle of brothel prisons: pretty girls with more clients and more income

Example in Bangladesh

A sex worker in Bangladesh described the situation for new young girls in the brothel in which she worked:

<The girls who were pretty got paid more and also got more clients. The price was usually 100-200 taka (1.20 to 2.40 English Pounds) and the men used to take five or ten minutes. I am not so pretty so I cost 75 taka (90 English Pennies) and I usually had about ten to twelve clients a day.>

Principle of brothel prisons: many clients in the beginning when the girl is "new"

A mama-san from the Philippines explained that the pretty teenagers found themselves in a difficult situation because there was so much demand for their services. Ironically, there is most demand for a prostitute in the period in which she is new and has yet to acclimatise herself to selling sex. By the time she has been both physically and emotionally conditioned she will be less attractive to the clients, will command less money and will service fewer men [weil sie einfach nicht mehr "neu" ist].

Principle of brothel prisons: criminal mama-sans limiting one customer to 10 minutes

Because brothel-based prostitution is cheap it also rarely offers (p.212)

much in the way of frills. In order to be economical the whole process is over very quickly so that the girl and / or the bed can be ready for the next customer. Girls reported that the brothel owners [mostly WOMEN] pressured them into making the customers stay for as short a time as possible. A young woman who had worked in a Cambodian brothel described how the brothel owner [mostly WOMEN] would begin to knock on the door of the cubicles if girls were taking too long to service the clients. The demands to hurry up would begin after ten minutes. If the girls took more than fifteen minutes, they would be beaten for providing 'unprofessional' service.

The same woman commented that this did not happen with the majority of clients but that she always experienced problems with men who had been drinking.

<The worst ones were the ones who were really drunk so that they took so long and it was very painful. Usually it took only a few minutes but the drunk ones took over half an hour and they would smell so bad and a few were sick on me.>

8.4: Without condom in Asia - more customers in Asia

Principle of brothel prisons: customers dominating the young girls - also without condom

Not only do young women have more clients but they are also in a weak position when it comes to refusing clients or having any say in what is done to them. Because they are under the control of the brothel owner they cannot choose their clients. And because the all-powerful client has paid for her body, he believes that it is his right to be serviced as he sees fit. Vulnerable and intimidated new recruits to sex work often have little knowledge about health risks. More to the point, girls are unable to negotiate the basic terms of the sex act, even if they know about the principles of safe sex, because they are in a position of acute powerlessness. In particular, they are unable to demand that the client uses a condom. Sex workers who are insistent upon condom use are seen as demanding and unappealing women among a customer base that places a premium on youthful submissiveness. Young powerless brothel girls rarely (p.213)

demand condom use. They demand nothing. That is why they are there. Over 70% of Nepali sex workers in India interviewed in a UNICEF study said that they had rarely or never refused to have sex [4].

[4] UNICEF: A Situation Analysis, p.74

Although around 86% of their clients used condoms, this still leaves a sizable proportion of sex acts that are unprotected [5].

[5] UNICEF: A Situation Analysis, p.75

A Calcutta prostitute said this about safe sex practices:

<Some of the clients use condoms but many don't. The malkins tell us not to use condoms because the customers don't like it and they will not earn so much money. It is very difficult. We can't make the customers use condoms. If they don't want to, and we try to make them, they just go to another woman and we have lost business.>

8.5: Surveillance, guards, and life in a brothel prison

The physical surroundings of prostituted women vary enormously but there are the constant themes of surveillance and lack of control. In India, a woman might queue for a bed upon which to service her customers while, in Japan, the client might take her to a luxurious hotel. Both women, however, can be locked into exactly the same system of debt bondage and sexual slavery. Thai women in Japan who were long past the point of successful seasoning and were unlikely to make a bid for freedom reported that they were kept under surveillance by local tough guys and by closed-circuit television. Many Cambodian women are not allowed to leave the brothel without an escort.

Some cannot leave at all. If they need to buy goods the brothel owner [mostly WOMEN] will do this for them and will add the cost to their debt - usually at high rates of interest.

Irregular eating, monotonous food, inadequate sleep and cramped and overcrowded living spaces were common complaints of women in the brothel sector right across the region. A Filipina woman, who is currently working in a bar in Mania and who was trafficked to Japan and forced into prostitution, claimed that she had spent six months in a club somewhere in Tokyo and that she had (p.114)

never left the building during the entire time except in the company of a guard or trusted customer of the club. She worked, ate and slept in the same place. Eight women - all Filipina - slept together on the floor of a small room at the top of the building, monitored, again, by closed-circuit television. This room together with a bathroom and a small kitchen constituted the only living space for these trafficked women.

Mostly enough food - sometimes hunger

Complaints about poor food were frequent but not universal. A child prostitute in Bangladesh explained her perspective on prostitution in a disturbingly pointed manner:

<I never got any money but the pimp promised that if I worked hard I would get some. He paid for my food and bought me two nice dresses and some makeup. The food he gave me was really good. I ate twice a day and wasn't hungry.>

For this child, the indignities and terrors of prostitution took second place to destitution [poverty] and starvation in the pantheon of horrors and injustices.

8.6: Drugs and medicine for prostitutes - AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STD)

Drug addiction and medicine

Even well-seasoned women do not always make compliant [obeying] prostitutes. Many women accept prostitution as their work but it does not mean they enjoy it. Drug use and dependency is a way that many women overcome their fears and unhappiness over what they do to earn a living. Alcohol is a cheap [in Asia and is mostly payed by the customers] and, in the short-term, easy palliative to the rigorous and emotional damage of prostitution for those women who never manage to acclimatise themselves. Excessive drug use is not very common among young brothel-based prostitutes because they do not have the money to afford such dubious luxuries, but the early foundations of addiction are often laid down during the trauma of seasoning and the early years of sex work.

Young prostitutes are provided with alcohol to suppress their inhibitions. Women who had worked in casas in the Philippines described drinking cough medicine to help them cope. Some used a (p.215)

favorite drug of older sex workers called 'shabu'.

Amphetamines for enthusiasm in brothels in Thailand - more business for the criminal mama-san

In Thailand, prostitutes are encouraged by brothel owners [mostly WOMEN] to take drugs. Supplying amphetamines to sex workers has a double advantage: the brothel owners [mostly WOMEN] make money out of women's addiction and women on a drug-induced high are more productive because they can service a greater number of customers with a greater degree of enthusiasm.

Sexually transmitted diseases

A succession of clients for the prostitutes is invariably accompanied by a succession of sexually transmitted diseases. Women live with STDs and wage a constant battle against them. Ultimately, it is a battle that some will lose. A Bangladeshi prostitute talked about her health in this way:

<We got good food in the brothel but I kept losing weight because I always had sexual diseases. I felt sick and could not eat. Someone would bring us lots of different medicines because we could not go out and see a doctor. Sometimes a government person would come and tell us about condoms and give us some.>

Antibiotics without end

Women in Mumbai, Dhaka and Phnom Penh report that they take antibiotics on a regular basis. Some do so continuously. Cambodians are particularly fond of taking even simple medication by injection. This practice has been linked to the spread of HIV because the fondness for needles is rarely complemented by an insistence on the fact that they are also sterile.

All treatment has to pay the woman herself - the brothel owner does not matter

Dhaka street prostitutes claim that they spend the most significant part of their income on medication for STDs. Although the clients of brothel-based prostitutes are just as likely to be infectious as the clients of other sex workers, brothel girls do not have the same kind of access to drugs. Although it is in the interest of brothel owners [mostly WOMEN] to maintain the girls in reasonable physical shape, this is not essential. A diseased girl can always be replaced.

The penis test with lemon juice - or general inspection - only possible when there is enough time

Experienced women take care to avoid STDs. Indian sex workers (p.216)

explained how they rub lime or lemon juice onto their palms before massaging the client's penis. If he winces [showing spasm] they can deduce [make the conclusion] that he is suffering from some form of STD.

In Thailand and Japan women said that they included an inspection of the man genitals as part of the sexual servicing. The pre-sex bath and massage gives them a good opportunity to check out his sexual health. For brothel-based girls who are sent clients by the management and who are required to provide fast service, this kind of inspection is impossible. Besides, they are not able to refuse the client even if they suspect that he is infected with STDs.

8.7: Contraception and abortions with prostitutes in Asia

Contraception in the brothel - sometimes injections with the same needle - children and vaginas

Brothel owners [mostly women] sometimes take care to ensure that their girls do not become pregnant. Contraceptive pills are given to girls in the better brothels. It is common in big and well-organized Indian brothels for a doctor to pay a regular visit to give girls contraceptive injections - sometimes all with the same needle. In this context the common claim that it is easier for prostitutes to acquire HIV / AIDS than to get pregnant is probably vindicated [justified].

Even so, many of the new recruits to the industry find that they become pregnant within a short time. Few of these girls will give birth to their children. It would be very bad for business. Women who have had children are not in such great demand and are paid less because customers prefer childless women who have tighter vaginas.

Abortions - and hardly time for recovery

Abortions are very common. The method of abortion varies from country to country and brothel to brothel. In the Philippines prostitutes said that a woman had visited the brothel and had massaged their stomach vigorously in order to dislodge the fetus. Sometimes they had to endure this procedure on numerous occasions. In India and Cambodia women said that they had been given medication that had made them ill. Many also had surgical terminations. Despite the pain and the emotional trauma that they had suffered, women reported that they were forced back into work very quickly. Many were given only a few days off.

Example: torture by mama-san after being pregnant - abortion and work after only 4 days of recovery - prostitutes with only few children

This Cambodian girl's story is typical (p.217):

<The mama-san was so angry when she found I was pregnant. She gave me some medicine and it made me vomit a lot but the baby didn't come out. She tried this three times. Then when my stomach got so big that the customers started to talk about it she took me to a doctor and I had an abortion. The baby had been in my stomach for about five months. I went back to the brothel the same day and after four days I started entertaining the clients.>

Teenage girls may become pregnant several times in their early sex work career but many older women find it difficult to become pregnant when they wish to. Repeated abortions and a succession of STDs leave many women infertile or sub-fertile. This is a tragedy for most women and especially for sex workers. Even in South Asia where the average woman usually has around four children, very few sex workers have more than two children. Sometimes this is because they know that having children is bad news for their career and sometimes it is because they are unable to have more.

Among South Asian sex workers in particular, children provide many women with the only true and honest relationships they will have in their adult lives. A large number of well-meaning NGOs try to help sex workers by taking their children into care and hence into a safer environment. In some cases this is appropriate and in the best interest of the children. Often it is what the women themselves wish for their children. However, it is rarely in the best interests of their stigmatized and socially isolated mothers.

AIDS provoking that prostitution is a worldwide topic - and one more time prostitutes are blamed

HIV / AIDS has given sex work a whole new dimension. It has elevated prostitution from a grubby little problem hidden in societies' dark corners to an issue of international concern. Without HIV / AIDS we can be sure that the issues of prostitution and trafficking would still be lost in those dark corners. Prostitution has become a subject worthy of study because the service that prostitutes offer to clients is seen as a medium through which HIV / AIDS is spread through (p.218)

society in general. The missionary-style health care activity in red light areas is rarely motivated by a government's or a medical establishment's sudden urge to help a despised community of women. Quite the reverse: they want to save the rest of society from the despised women.

Governments, public health institutions and medics have rushed to slow the spread of the disease. Some have blamed prostitutes for spreading AIDS and have adjudged [condemned] it a righteous curse for their immorality. They have not made it clear, however, if the invisible clients who buy the prostitutes should be equally cursed. The more enlightened have sought to control HIV / AIDS by encouraging safer sex practices. To this end HIV / AIDS programs are disseminating information on how HIV is spread. Condom use is promoted among sex workers and the programs, in many cases, cultivate good relations with brothel owners [mostly WOMEN] on the grounds that they can then get their message through to girls and women who are confined within the brothels.

If only it was that easy. Protecting oneself from infection is not only about receiving and understanding a message. The girls and women who sell sex, and those who are sold for sex, are not stupid. They understand the message if they are given the chance to hear it. But the important point is whether the woman have the power to act upon this message. The poorest and youngest and most vulnerable do not. That is exactly why they are in such demand.
[WRONG: This "demand" is organized by criminal mama-san brothel prison owner].

AIDS intervention programs

Combating HIV / AIDS is not just about making people aware of safe sex. It is also about ensuring equality of power within relationships - whether those relationships do not involve a financial transaction, or whether they are purchased in cash or in kind. Some of the best HIV intervention programs address this problem by trying to encourage a sense of empowerment among sex workers and to demand sex workers' rights. The STD / HIV Intervention Program in Calcutta is one of the best examples of this strategy. Its approach grew from the realization that women could not insist (p.219)

upon a client's condom use if they did not have the ability to determine their conditions of work and if they did not possess self-esteem and a sense of pride in themselves as women who sell sex. A strong link has therefore developed between AIDS control and the need to eradicate the stigma associated with prostitution. This has found practical application in a powerful and persuasive alliance between those who advocate sex work as a legitimate and ethically desirable form of employment and a medical establishment that seeks to slow the spread of HIV / AIDS by empowering prostitutes and encouraging them to demand safe sex.

HIV / AIDS prevention campaigns have tended to concentrate upon modifying behavior rather than changing it. Safe sex is encouraged - and that is all to the good. But campaigns have not encouraged men to question their prostitute use.
[WRONG: and criminal mothers do not stop selling their daughters, and criminal mama-sans brothel prison owner did not stop torturing, manipulating and extorting girls and young women offering them to men].
Danger of AIDS: a poster in Japan with a man and a passport

The purchase of sex is taken as absolute and unchangeable. For example, AIDS has been a national issue in Japan since the early 1990s but it has had minimal effect upon men's practice of buying sex. In 1991 a controversial poster published by the Ministry of Health and Welfare showed a man hiding his face with a passport. The accompanying slogan read, 'Have a nice trip but be careful of AIDS.' [6]

[6] For an excellent discussion of AIDS awareness campaigns in Japan and their impact upon the commercial sex industry see: Sandra Buckley: 'The Foreign Devil Returns: Packaging Sexual Practice and Risk in Contemporary Japan'; In: Lenore Manderson and Margaret Jolly: Sites of Desire, Economies of Pleasure: Sexualities in Asia and the Pacific (University  of Chicago Press, 1997)
[And criminal mothers selling their daughters and criminal mama-sans brothel prison managers torturing, manipulating and extorting the girls and young women are NEVER mentioned in this context].
Perhaps the mysterious man was on his way to Mae Sai to purchase a Burmese virgin. In which case he was not the person who had to worry about HIV / AIDS.

Philippines with health check every week - bribes and forged healthy cards

Although prostitution is illegal in the Philippines the government tries to make the women safe for the clients by insisting that 'entertainers' have weekly health checks. Strangely, this requirement does not apply to the customers who are freed from any obligation to prove their own sexual health credentials. Presumably they play no part in the transmission process and are thought to be free of infection until they come into contact with diseased women. Such illogical apportioning of blame for HIV / AIDS and STDs cannot help in their control. Prostitutes are no more conduits of infection than the men they service (p.220).

The Philippines' health check is a confidential service, but women who fail the examination are refused a card guaranteeing their clean bill of health. A large proportion of girls who work in casas are unregistered and therefore do not carry a health card because they are children. Despite their youth, casa owners often take girls to be given the medical. They either lie about their age and / or they pay a suitable bribe.

Philippines: private doctors for healthy check - for more customers - doctors have to be mute

Some have private doctors who visit the brothels in order to carry out the weekly examinations in a secure setting. Such concern for the girls' health has little to do with the well-being of the young prostitutes and far more to do with securing the confidence of the brothels' customers.

Medics are placed in a difficult ethical position when they treat child prostitutes and women held in sexual slavery. Some doctors could not care less about the principles of their profession, or the fate of the girls they treat, as long as they earn a good living from it. Others, however, are caught in a horrible dilemma. If they report the abuse to the police, they run the risk of being exposed as informants by corrupt police officers. The medics will then lose the confidence of brothel owners and they will not be able to treat those girls and women who so desperately need their help. On the other hand, their silence also amounts to a form of complicity because treating the victims of sexual slavery prepares the victims for yet more abuse. It is a no-win situation.

Girls and women in captivity hardly receive any condom - competition with or without condom

The women who are in the direst need of help are rarely those who receive it. Trafficked women are unlikely to be let loose to consult a local doctor. HIV / AIDS intervention programs rarely reach these women. They are held in captivity and frequently speak a foreign language. They are the women for whom the safe sex message is just about as redundant as it can get. If they cannot negotiate their basic human rights and their right to freedom they are hardly in a position to demand that the man who has purchased their body also wears a condom.

Even girls and women who have received the safe sex message - (p.221)

and, more importantly, are able to do something about it - will not always insist upon condom use. Clients sometimes refuse to use one. Women from Kamatipura in Mumbai claimed that customers would say something along the lines of, 'Why should I use one when I am paying for pleasure?' The women said that he was then likely to leave and go to the next sex worker who would offer him condom-free sex. Rules about refusing customers who will not use condoms are therefore only practical when all women agree to abide [stay] by the rules. However, older women who can no longer trade on their youth and looks will  often compete with younger girls by offering unsafe sex. Brothel owners [mostly WOMEN] therefore encourage their girls to offer the same kind of service on the grounds that they might otherwise lose trade. This is the real face of sex work.

Girls and women with "special clients" having sex without condom

There is another complicating factor in the safe sex debate: some sex workers who possess the power to demand condom use will not always require clients to use them. Women in brothels sometimes have special clients - namely ones that they like: ones that they say are kind to them. These men are special because they are people with whom the women share some kind of emotional bond. The way that the women show their special favor to these men is to do away with condoms. It is a gesture of affection, and of trust. Sadly, it is also a gesture that may kill them.

Girls and women not always insisting

Other sex workers fail to insist upon condom use. This is especially true of young and experienced girls who do not always like customers to use condoms. Recent recruits who are forced to take numerous clients complain of the intense pain of condom friction. Not only does it hurt, but it also takes longer for the customer to be serviced. In these circumstances girls may not put up much resistance to unsafe sex and, at times, it may even be a temporary relief.
[In Asia sex is just such a taboo until today (2014) so many girls and women don't even know what is a lubricant. Then they suffer vagina inflammations and send their husbands to the brothels where the girls and women don't know either what is a lubricant. Then the husbands return from the brothel with AIDS. More stupid than Asia one cannot be.

8.8: Estimations of AIDS with prostitutes in Asia

Estimations of AIDS for whole Asia

Despite all the publicity about AIDS, the prevalence [dominance] of HIV among sex workers in red light areas in Asia is awesome [horrible]. The ASHA project in Kamatipura in Mumbai estimates from sample surveys that about 60% of sex workers in the area are HIV positive. Around 40% of (p.222)

men living in the area are also affected. These men are not sex workers themselves but they may buy sex and they may be partners of sex workers [7].

[7] I am indebted to the ASHA Project of Kamatipura, Mumbai for the opportunity to visit the project and for the details on HIV sample surveys.

These prevalence [very high, dominating] rates are representative of many red light areas throughout the region. In 1997 the Cambodian Ministry of Health's National Aids Control and Prevention Program estimated that HIV prevalence among sex workers in Phnom Penh stood at 42%. In [north Cambodian town of] Batambang the rate was 58% and in Sihanoukville [at the south Cambodian coast line] it was 52%. It is therefore with absolute justification that in 1996 UNICEF wrote, 'Without significant behavioral change the personal, social and economic cost [of HIV / AIDS] to Cambodia will be unbearable in the next century.' [8]

[8] UNICEF: Towards a Better Future (Phnom Penh, 1996), p.92
[But just this UNICEF never blamed the criminal mothers selling their daughter and never blamed the criminal brothel owners (mama-sans) who are torturing, manipulating and extorting girls and young women in the brothel prisons but UNICEF is only blaming men who mostly only see the girls and young women during 10 minutes...]
Estimations for Thailand: many Thai men spreading AIDS around not bothering anything

In theory the infection rates in the HIV hot-spot of Thailand have plateaued. Perhaps this might be true among middle- and high-class sex workers and their customers. However, it is a different story for the lower class brothel women and especially the cheapest prostitutes who are from Burma. Jackie Pollock, a member of an organization known as EMPOWER, which assists sex workers in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, believes that infection rates among Burmese brothel-based prostitutes are every bit as high as the early 1990s when a majority of sex workers were supposedly infected. These girls are the most powerless of Thailand's sex workers and their clients are the most callous [without heart].

Many of these men have bought sex for years and did so in the years when safe sex was not high on the agenda. Some of these men know that they are now HIV positive but they have not adjusted their behavior accordingly. They continue to purchase sex and to have multiple sexual partners and, because they themselves are already infected, they do not feel any obligation or moral imperative to use condoms when they buy women. They don't care. When I heard this it came as a shock but, on reflection, this piece of news shouldn't have been a surprise.
[Thai men are just that alcoholics that they are only laughing about AIDS and about prostitutes, above all policemen and security members in Thailand who are hardly working but they are almost all drinking alcohol for their wages jus laughing even more about life and not taking earnest anything anymore - just in uniform...]
The international NGO World Vision has run an HIV / AIDS intervention program in Mae Sai on the Thai-Burmese border since the early 1990s. According to its sample surveys around 20% of sex (p.223)

workers in the town are HIV positive [9].

[9] In conversation with the staff of the World Vision HIV / STD intervention program, Mae Sai, Thailand

Burmese girls coming as virgins to Mae Sai - and go with AIDS to central Thailand

When we analyze figures like this we have to remember that these girls arrive as virgins and stay in the town for only a few months before they move on to brothels further south. As HIV cannot be detected immediately it is contracted, the enormity of what happens to girls in Mae Sai and the impact upon their lives and, just as accurately, their deaths is obvious. EMPOWER's representatives in Mae Sai claim that most girls leave the town with HIV. These girls pay a terrible price to escape from the poverty of their Burmese homes.

Businessmen with virgins spreading AIDS by child vagina

One of the greatest ironies of the sex industry is that the people who are supposed to be the freest from disease are probably actually the sickest. Men buy child prostitutes because they are thought to be 'clean'. But even the first sexual act puts the child at physical risk because clients pay for the privilege of condom-free sex, safe in the knowledge that the girl's health is guaranteed. Young girls, however, are not designed for sex - and especially not with adult men. Their vaginal secretions do not act as an effective barrier to infection and their physical size makes them subject to vaginal abrasions that facilitate the transmission of HIV.
[Criminal Asian populations don't know lubricants, but all is a taboo, and pains and AIDS are accepted. The consequences are cruel for criminal Asia]:
Almost 70% of those girls and young women I interviewed who were, or had been, child prostitutes were HIV positive.

Rates were especially high among Nepali and Cambodian girls. Although this sample is biased, and is not representative of sex workers as a whole, it does indicate the dangers posed to the most vulnerable people involved in the sex industry and especially to its youngest victims who may not live long enough to graduate into survivors.


The understandable preoccupation with AIDS has sidelined the other health issues faced by sex workers. Gynecological problems are among the most serious complaints of prostitutes, but there is little interest in them as they are not problems that affect the women's male clients. In the less-developed parts of the region prostitutes share many of the diseases of other poor people. And once a woman becomes ill her descent is rapid.

8.9: TB with Asian prostitutes

Looking unhealthy and kicked out prostitutes - AIDS and TB brining death - for example for Nepali girls coming back from India

Unhealthy-looking sex (p.224)

workers do not attract many clients. That means they do not earn much money. And if they do not earn much money they cannot eat properly or afford decent accommodation. Their health therefore deteriorates further. It is a vicious circle from which it is very hard to escape. Sick girls will be expelled from captivity in a brothel without much delay. Many brothel owners [mostly WOMEN] with a reputation to preserve will test for HIV on a regular basis and dispose of [eliminate] infected women. Others with persistent health problems receive the same treatment. Thin and ailing [always a little bit ill] prostitutes are a bad advertisement for the brothel. Poor diets, lack of exercise and cramped living conditions combine to age sex workers in the poorer parts of the region at an accelerated rate.

In these areas tuberculosis, a disease of poverty and overcrowding, probably kills as many sex workers as AIDS. In fact it is TB that finishes off many women and girls living with AIDS. [The organization] Maiti Nepal, which runs a shelter home in Kathmandu for Nepali girls returned from Indian brothels, is overflowing with girls afflicted with both HIV and tuberculosis.

The physical damage of prostitution is easy to see. You cannot ignore the signs of AIDS or tuberculosis. You can see the results of savage beatings and doctors occasionally have the difficult task to repairing the internal damage done to girls who are not old enough [being in the seasoning process yet!] - or willing enough - to have their bodies sold to men.

8.10: Psychological damage with Asian prostitutes

Psychological damage on the other hand is more insidious [tricky] because it is also invisible. Some sex workers I have met during the course of this research have been confident [with self-esteem] and assertive [positive] women. I cannot therefore claim that all sex workers are one undifferentiated and subjugated mass. But there are many others who are haunted [restless] by their memories and crippled [deformed] by a lack of self-esteem. Their psychological problems manifest themselves in different forms ranging from self-mutilation to drug abuse to the tolerance of grossly abusive relationships.

Those young girls who are penned [locked into a little room] into Indian brothels as children will be scarred by the experience for their entire lives. By the time they are (p.225)

old enough to leave the brothel, many do not wish to go. The brothel is their whole world. Paradoxically, it is the only place they feel safe.

Example: brothel prison with cell without window provoking frustration

This Nepali girl, who was a teenage prostitute in Mumbai, described her life in the brothel in sad and bitter tones:

<I was in that place for three years and for two of them I never saw the sun. They never let me out. I was in a little room with two other girls and there was no window. It was always dark and there was only one light that was on almost all the time. Often we would talk to each other and imagine what it would be like to be outside and in the sunshine. I thought about my home but it just made me upset.>

Distancing techniques: separate blanket - separate clothes - separate name

Women adopt survival strategies in order to help them cope. This applies to those who are new recruits and to those who have already been seasoned. Distancing techniques are a common method of insulating [isolating] the women from further psychological harm. Girls who live and service men in the same tiny cubicle say that they use a separate blanket on the mattress when they entertain clients or that they rearrange their possessions before and after the client's visit. Some have clothes that they never wear while they are entertaining the clients.

These little rituals help to separate the women as individuals from the functions that their bodies are compelled to perform. They help them to maintain their integrity and sense of self. A Thai woman who was trafficked to Japan and who was given a Japanese name said that she did not mind the new name, 'because it helped me. I said that the men were buying the woman with the other name and not me. It happened to someone else.'

Homesick for location and family members - criminal mama-san becomes "mother" and the brothel prison becomes the new "home"

Almost all girls and women report feeling homesick, especially in the early years. Even when they have fled from a bad home life, there is often someone - their mother or a little brothel or sister - that they miss acutely. Developing relationships with other prostitutes and the brothel management is one way the women attempt to fill (p.226)

the emotional void [gap]. Perhaps strangely, mama-sans can act as substitute mothers or female relations to hard-working girls.
[But just these criminal mama-sans brothel prison owners are purchasing, torturing, manipulating and extorting their victims].
And, in time the brothels become their home.
[But just this brothel is not only a brothel but mostly a brothel prison].

8.11: "Culture" of brothel prisons

Thesis of Louise Brown: "gives them dignity"

Brothels [brothel prisons] have their own culture and behavioral codes and, eventually, girls will accept these because they have to. Women who have been forced or tricked into prostitution may then say with total honesty that they choose to sell their bodies. In this sense, the insistence upon their agency and choice in the matter is a survival strategy too. It gives them dignity.

Thesis of Baitali Gangulay: girls and young women "become conditioned to the life and to the apparent power that sex work gives them"

Baitali Gangulay, who runs an NGO to help the children of sex workers in Calcutta's Bowbazar red light area, has some unconventional views on sex workers' attitudes to their occupation. Based on her experience of work in the brothels, she believes that girls may be initially trafficked and forced into prostitution but that after seasoning they become conditioned to the life and to the apparent power that sex work gives them. Usually, these girls are from impoverished families in which they have been a burden and considered of little value.

"Men desire them and some even appear to care for them"

Then they come into sex work and men desire them and some even appear to care for them. For a short while they can exercise a degree of power that would otherwise be unavailable to them. The realization of this power helps in the conditioning process and may reconcile [make peace] some women to the profession. However, this cannot be true of the newest girls. In order for them to enjoy the precarious short-term benefits bestowed by the exercise of this power, they have to undergo a physically painful and emotionally wrenching initiation. I cannot imagine that a young woman held within a system of sexual slavery has a highly developed sense of her own power. It is her very lack of power that has led to her captivity in the first place.
[And it's mama-san purchasing and conditioning the victims].

Exchange between brothels and brothel communities

Brothel communities have a cohesiveness [solidarity] in South Asia's large traditional red light areas. Women can find an identity and a place in this community even when they are rejected by the outside world. Paradoxically, women who are outcasted from society see the brothel community as their only safety net in a hostile environment. In (p.227)

smaller red light areas, and particularly in the newer brothels that are dispersed throughout Asian cities, women are more isolated. They do not have the comfort of bonds created by the sheer number of women in traditional red light areas. I do not, however, want to overplay [exagerate] the strength and warmth of these bonds. Life in brothels is vicious - especially if you are old or ailing [always a little bit ill]. There is competition between brothels and between women within those brothels. In Mumbai, for instance, Nepali women and those from different  Indian regions staff separate brothels and there is little social interaction between them. In Japan there  is fierce competition between clubs that offer the services of a particular nationality. Sisterhood and the bonds created by the shared experience of prostitution are undermined by the economics of selling sex.

8.12: Competition between prostitutes - and good and terrorist mama-sans

Beautiful new prostitute having all clients - and jealous reactions

Prostitutes form friendships in the brothel. But they can just as easily form enmities. Seasoned girls compete for customers because their freedom from debt bondage depends upon it. A Nepali sex worker in India described the tensions this competition can create in the closed environment of the brothel [prison]:

<A girl who is very young and pretty gets lots of clients. This can be a problem for her because the others get jealous because they can't earn as much money. They can be cruel and make life difficult for her. They tell stories about her and take her things and sometimes they pull her hair and pinch her. >

Mama-sans making giving competence to elder prostitutes watching the younger ones

Brothel owners [mostly WOMEN] play women off against each other on the grounds that business is easier to manage by divide and rule techniques. Sometimes one of the older women is given some extra money and presents or she is given better treatment. In return she is expected to act as an informant and to keep the younger inmates in line. Encouraging a sense of insecurity is a common way to keep seasoned women under control. Denying them any control over their (p.228)

lives and the services they provide is an effective way of disabling a potential mutiny [trouble] among the ranks of prostitutes.

Prostitutes shifted from brothel to brothel - broken friendships

Fledgling [fresh] friendships are often undermined by rotating girls from brothel to brothel. This has the three-fold advantage of stymieing [hindering] potential alliances, keeping girls in a state of insecurity and also providing the 'fresh' prostitutes that novelty-seeking customers demand. Women in Japan report being passed on from one club to another. Similar reports are heard from Cambodia and Thailand. One Burmese girl said she had been in five brothels in the preceding twelve months.

Example: a terrorist mama-san in Dhaka

For every brothel manager [mostly criminal WOMEN] who acts as a substitute mother to her girls, there are many more who are tyrants. A Dhaka prostitute painted this picture of life in her brothel:

<Madam was ferocious. All the girls were frightened of her. Whenever she would do her rounds in the morning the girls would rush to put on some more makeup and to brush their hair. Every morning we had to prepare ourselves carefully and to go and sit in the reception and wait for the clients. Madam checked us carefully because she said that we had to look pretty for the customers.>

8.13: Prostitution careers

Thailand: Thaniya Road in Bangkok

Prostitution has a career ladder. Mass-market prostitutes in the less-developed parts of the region [Asia] tend to start on the middle rungs of the ladder and literally work their way down. The harder they work, the faster is their descent. There is a little more flexibility in the more developed markets and amongst higher class sex workers. In Thailand a skilled ethnic Thai sex worker can graduate from massage parlors to clubs and the call girl sector. For the majority the high point in their career is to go to Japan.

Within Thailand the highest status is given to those girls who work in places like Thaniya Road in Bangkok and service wealthy Japanese tourists and businessmen. But (p.229)

careers are short even for these women. They may have the income to pay for the high-cost maintenance of their looks but money cannot postpone age and redundancy indefinitely. Women in the lower echelons of the industry cannot afford the luxury of intensive maintenance regimes. In places like Bangladesh they can barely afford a nutritious diet. And it shows. By the time they are twenty-five most poor sex workers in Dhaka look worn out because they are worn out. By the time they are thirty most cannot make a living from selling sex because they look like very old women.

Elder prostitutes kicked out - young girls coming in

Aging prostitutes are not wanted in the brothels because they do not bring in the clients. Women are therefore freed from the brothels not only because they have worked off their debt but also because it is more profitable for the owner [mostly criminal WOMEN] to acquire new girls. Under the chukri system in Calcutta, a girl will have repaid her debt at least two times over [interests!] by the time she is released from her bond. Typically she will then join the adhiya system, whereby she works as an independent who pays half her earnings to a mashi who operates the brothel.

A woman in her mid-twenties who has moved on from being debt bonded under the chukri system described her move in positive terms:

<Now I am in the adhiya system it is much better. But sometimes when there are only a few clients we have to accept clients who don't use condoms or who want oral and anal sex. We have to do this to earn some money. Most of the clients want to buy younger women so it is harder for us to have been doing this work for a long time.>

Career in brothel prisons in Cambodia

Living in a brothel is the least favorable option for Cambodian sex workers. They are forced to work longer hours, have less freedom, service more clients and earn less money [10].

[10] Cambodian Women's development Association: Knowledge, Attitudes and Behavior Among Commercial Sex Workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (September-October 1995), p.29

Women and girls have to endure these conditions because they are younger than prostitutes working in other sectors and so they have less knowledge of (p.230)

how to work the system. Many of them will have been forced or tricked into sex work. The sex industry and the clients then benefit from the girls' youth and from their lack of experience.

When debt bondage extortion is finishing - welfare does often NOT come

Sex workers are believed to earn substantial sums once they have completed their period of debt bondage. For most prostitutes this is a myth. Elite prostitutes can make substantial sums of money if they work independently and manage their business well [when they are not spending too much for clothes, painting their face, alcohol, are eating well, are sleeping 2 nights per week regaining force and preserving their feminine voice, when they don't have accidents etc.]. And the average income even for mass-market sex workers is commonly above the average income of other women workers who have comparable educational levels.

8.14: Income of prostitutes

A UNICEF study estimates that around 70% of Cambodian sex workers who had paid off their debt could earn around 10 "US" dollars per month [11].

[11] UNICEF: Towards a Better Future, p.148

This compares with the salary of approximately 40 "US" dollars that a woman can earn in a garment factory. Estimates for the income of sex workers in India varies. The National Commission for Women suggests that the mean income is around 1,000 rupees (14.20 English Pounds) per month [12]

[12] National Commission for Women: Societal Violence, p.15

whereas UNICEF suggests that most women earn 500-1,000 rupees per week [13].

[13] UNICEF: A Situation Analysis, p.72

The UNICEF figures, however, may be misleading because they refer to Nepali women in Indian cities who may be able to command a higher price than the average Indian prostitute. Uneducated women with minimal skills would find it difficult to earn a comparable amount in any other occupation. The crucial point, however, is that sex workers [mostly] cannot earn a living for very long [because they are eliminated step by step after reaching the age of 25].

No salary in slavery

Women in sexual slavery receive nothing, or, at best, a pitiful fraction of the income that the brothel owners [mostly criminal WOMEN] collect from the sale of their sexual labor. Some women will earn nothing but an early death and the condemnation of society. For a short while, most prostitutes are highly paid relative to women in their own social classes because their work is both hazardous [dangerous] and stigmatized. The women who manage to survive and who learn to prosper from sex work will gain confidence and knowledge. Their relationship with the management of the sex industry will change because they understand how the system works. They learn how to (p.231)

negotiate and they learn about power. But they also become older and their accumulated knowledge is a threat to the industry. Ironically, but inevitably, once they are in a position to work the system, there is no longer any demand for them. Mature and empowered sex workers - especially in an Asian setting - are the ones with flagging careers. They have traded their social acceptability and their sexuality in exchange for the economic benefits of selling sex. Some women believe the trade-off [compromise] to be worthwhile but many others are never given the liberty and the economic freedom to allow them to weigh the costs and benefits of the exchange. They do not possess the power to define the terms of the contract that binds them into the sex industry. These young women are the goods and not the merchants.

<<        >>



[web01] http://www.philboards.com/topic/16066-filmbesprechung-selling-sex-in-heaven/