Monday, August 9, 2010

Thoughts On Prostitution In The Philippines

An ongoing protest by a church in Ohio at a local strip club has brought the strippers to church... in skimpy bikinis, to do their own protest.

Lots of people protest against countries like The Philippines because of their massive sex trade: They think that it is sexual exploitation. Such an assessment is true but is far too simplified and limited in scope.

The fact is that the entire working-class population of The Philippines is exploited, with worker salaries placed at such a level as to make survival (and, more importantly, personal advancement through education and training) a very difficult proposition. The prostitutes working in go-go bars gave up the financial exploitation they faced at their $150-per-month jobs in a store, restaurant, or office in exchange for sexual exploitation at $500 or $1,000-per-month jobs of dancing and providing sexual services.

You can judge each type of exploitation and assign your own personal values to determine each one's Manichean damage/benefit to Filipino society... but you can't judge them separately or exclusively; they are linked.

Worker exploitation is part of the foundation of The Philippines economy. Even education isn't really enough to overcome this, as a college graduate here will struggle mightily to find an employer who will pay what would amount to 50% of what Europe or America would consider the "poverty line". (My friend is building a house, and the very-experienced and competent architect he is using earns $10,000 per year.) Now to that low salary add the Filipino tradition and obligation of sending vast percentages of one's income home to support one's family, and you can see how difficult life is for people here... from professionals down to high-school dropouts.

So into that established system of financial exploitation, you toss a Filipina girl fresh out of high school. Her family is needy, their needs are exigent, and there is no possibility of higher education or overseas work (due to lack of funds and the poor public high-school education she has received). What are her earning options? When even the clothing stores at Limketkai Mall demand a college degree before they'll allow this girl to stand behind a counter for 60 hours per week at 8,000 pisos per month?

So she makes the choice to work in a go-go bar. It's not her fault. It's not even the fault of the go-go bar owner who offers the job. It's the fault of the Filipino economy, which dictated that her value as a person... in a non-sexual capacity... is close to nothing.

My personal opinion is this: I have a very large amount of respect for girls in The Philippines who make the difficult decision to sell their bodies. They are sacrificing their self-respect, reputation, health, and soul for (what I hope is) a shot at a better life for themselves and their families. Perhaps her sex work is paying the medical bills of a sick parent. Perhaps her sex work is paying the tuition of a younger sister to keep her from having to make a similar choice. Perhaps her sex work is even being saved for her own dreams of a future education or business. Regardless, it is her attempt to "beat the system", and I do respect that.

I would of course much rather fix this broken and abusive economy than see girls forced to make this choice... but until then — and here is where reasonable minds can disagree — I have no problem with the fact that such a choice is still available.


dulcify said...

Over population isn't helping either is it? The Catholic Church isn't helping in that regard either. It's very hard to optimistic about the Philippines as someone looking from the outside.

Jungle Jil said...

I'm optimistic. The Philippines is probably the greatest source of English-speaking low-cost labor in the world at this time (outside of India), and their proximity to China makes industrial export potential huge.

The only problem is that the upper class of this country is so detrimental to the society and simply evil. Charity, social investment, and forethought are all this country needs, and the people who can provide it are too selfish to do so.