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The misery of poverty

Prof Ramesh Deosaran Sunday, August 13 2017

Misery. This is described as “a wretched state of mind, or of wretched circumstances.” Poverty often brings miserable lives – like prostitution, forced labour, vagrancy and frustrated ambitions.

People take advantage of you.

They exploit you. This was graphically shown in a credible documentary (via British Sky TV) on sexual abuse and exploitation of very poor, teenage girls in South-East Asia, especially places like Viet Nam, Thailand and the Philippines.

Sex and prostitution usually make hot stories. But my interest here arose from the exploitation and misery I saw in the Sky documentary– something we should avoid here.

For many years now, we have been having regular media reports about the increase in prostitution in this country. An increase which will be aggravated as refugees and immigrants penetrate our borders – legally or illegally.

The downturned economy will help pave the way if the required controls are not properly inserted.

In July 2015, Corey Connnelly wrote about the rising sex and human trafficking from Latin America– about “100 arriving here per week”– many as prostitutes (Newsday July, 12, 2015).

In April 2013, officers were charged with protecting a prostitution ring in Marabella. In March, 2013, seventy eight charged for prostitution in south again – a mixture of Guyanese, Jamaicans, Dominican Republicans and Venezuelans.

Connelly’s story explained all this as “a million–dollar industry” brokered by local agents and second to illegal drugs.

The Trafficking in Persons Act, Sexual Offences Act, Counter-Trafficking Unit – all face mounting challenges. The US State Department has already described this country as a Caribbean “sex destination.” These “sex workers” are poor, and taken advantage of one way or another.

The abuse and sexploitation of prostitution in South Asia are widely known.

In fact, there is now a growing network for shared intelligence among countries regarding registered sex offenders travelling to South-East Asia for cheap, easy sex.

It is difficult to stop such persons from leaving their country but the affected, receiving country can stop them. The published report noted that many of the sex offenders come from Western countries, including Europe, Britain and the United States.

More than that, the increased prevalence of “under-sixteen” prostitution in Southeast Asia is being summarised as a “tourism, poverty, prostitution” matrix. A “collision,” said one security agent.

Like a vulgarised underground economy, prostitution flourished with the American bases in Viet Nam, Thailand and the Philippines– men leaving hundreds of children behind. Like how our “Jean and Dina” culture flourished with the American base in the 1940s.

Many “sex visitors” to Southeast Asia seek to capture as many poverty- stricken virgins as possible.

Clearly shown in the documentary are the scantily dressed teenagers, cramped in small groups, idly chatting, while waiting for “customers.” They drown their destitution in nervous laughter and aimless gazing.

“Will you do this all the time, when will you stop?” The interviewer asked. “I don’t know, I do this now to send back money for my two children,” one 15-year old explained (in translation). Two children at 15? The very red lipstick, thickly-powdered face and bikini-styled wear are their frontline tools-at-work.

Once inside with the “customer,” anything goes.

Recently, the governments in Southeast Asia have been striving to reduce the miserable trade but the demand-supply network, propped up by police corruption, is quite resistant. Regarding “tourist offenders,” security agencies use shared intelligence from Interpol and other governments. This year, it is reported, thirty-four have been stopped by Filipino security, eighteen in Thailand and two in India.

Last two years, seventy from the UK have been blocked by the National Crime Agency.

Of course, not all “virgin hunters” are registered offenders.

The rate of HIV and related diseases is high. But craving for the “Yankee dollar” there, like the Caribbean, is quite high too. There were loud music, curious pedestrians and even tourist couples of same or mixed gender cruising along these “red light” districts. The Pattaya district in Thailand is reputed to be the world’s largest red light district. Two of the teenage prostitutes, quite surprisingly, said they were working “to save to go to university.” Prostitutes saving for university? Though an extreme example, it seems that while poverty can bring misery and exploitation, it can also spark ambitions for escaping

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