Last January 19, 2013, I met an 11-year-old boy Bryan (not his real name) at an outreach program for children with disabilities. During one of our conversations, I asked him where he lives. To my surprise, I received the most unexpected response for a very simple question. Marvin answered, “I live in a place full of drug addicts, prostitutes and violent people”. He reiterated that one of his neighbors is a prostitute and that this prostitute’s parents treat her as a disgrace in the family. Having heard this alarming reality from a little innocent boy made me realize how rampant prostitution is in developing countries, specifically in the Philippines and how this corrupt practice violates the dignity of thousands of women throughout the country.
In the Philippines, prostitution has recently become a debatable issue as there are some reports and movements promoting the legalization of prostitution in the country. A United Nations report: “Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific“, posits that sex workers in our country receive limited protection from HIV and other sex related disorders. The report noted that though the Philippines introduced national HIV laws, still there are criminal laws against sex workers. The report said, “the continued enforcement of criminal laws against sex workers and difficulties in accessing the justice system to enforce these rights means that (as yet) these general HIV laws have offered limited protections to sex workers”.
Furthermore, in my opinion, legalizing prostitution is not the best and only solution to the problem of limited protections to sex workers. Instead of legalizing it, I strongly believe that it is necessary to initially conduct researches regarding the real cause of prostitution in the country and later act against these causes. Besides, more than a cause of HIV, prostitution is an effect; an effect of the countless flaws in our society. It is an outcome of heightening unemployment rates, poverty, global inequality and sexual abuses. These unfortunate phenomena have led women across the Philippines to enter the iniquitous world of prostitution.
As I have come across a number of articles regarding prostitution, I noticed that most of them tackle how prostitution negatively affects the face of the community. Growing up in a typical Filipino environment, I also observed that Filipinos often view prostitutes as a social menace. Oftentimes, people would say that prostitutes have no self-respect and dignity at all. Little do people know how hard it is for these prostitutes to live their daily lives struggling for respect. As Charles Malik, a Lebanese philosopher who played a vital role in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has described humanity, prostitutes are also “struggling-caring” beings. They struggle as they go into prostitution because they care about the families that are depending on them. In reality, they care about themselves and others so much that they do something undo-able. This whole idea made me realize that I am not into any position to judge anyone of them. I do not know their stories or their real names, and at the end of the day, the story told by Bryan is just another story from our blinded society.
Written by Ms. Auie Anatalio, an intern at World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific.