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01 March 2008

Prostitution: A Problem Beneath Problems

If you ever walk down the infamous red-light district of Singapore, Geylang, it is easy to be led into believing that the seeming progress made by the nation has neglected this part of the island. It is a shuddering sight seeing women of all races, age and nationalities dressing down to the bare minimum and standing at the road sides, soliciting for any potential business and the men scrutinizing them as if they were a piece of good to be purchased. Hotels and run-down shop houses lined alongside the roads and the air was heavily laden with a thick sense of uneasiness and disgust.

Once in a while, police cars would drive past the roads and the women would scurry to hide as soliciting in public is still a crime, though prostitution isn’t. Apparently heading for another night of physical wasted-ness, a lady was walking past a small erected Buddha stature when she suddenly slowed her pace, turned and prayed. Was she praying for better business that night, or was she praying for the day when she can finally bide farewell to this form of self-degradation?

The two questions highlight the problems that come with the social dilemma posed by prostitution. It is easy to assume that prostitution, because it has always been prevalent in history (in the form of “white” slavery or sex trafficking), is thus acceptable though it remains a taboo subject to debate generously on. Yet, more often than not, we neglect the underlying problems that are made more conspicuous by the rise of this sex industry.

Poverty, war and social exclusion are just some of
the global problems that accentuate the surge in growth of this industry. Women, and sometimes even girls, are led into believing that the job as a “sex worker” brings in fast bucks and more importantly, they are only temporal and the promise of riches at the end of this job after years of poverty is irresistible. Yet too often than not, they are forced to take up loans that effectively bind them into this quagmire where the high interest rates amounted to huge debts. With no money to pay off their loans, they are forced to work for the “pimps” or brothels till the day when they have enough to buy their freedom. Also, from historical days, women were often made to serve as sex workers in wartime to service the victors or the conquerors.

Prostitution, the oldest profession in the world, is deeply rooted in the society and this social problem is almost impossible to eradicate. In the modern society where sex is increasingly being portrayed as a service and pleasure instead of sacred and holy, the industry will only thrive. What can be done though is to concentrate on the underlying problems like reducing poverty and promulgating the rights of a woman. When women are finally not being portrayed as merely sex objects and respect for the females are on equal par with the males, the prostitution trade will gradually decline. Whether or not it can be fully done away with remains a dilemma that continues to question the morality of society.

By Jacob Toh. Submit your thoughts - click here!

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