It was a full house last week at Dr Sallie Yea’s official presentation of her report about migrant women exploited in Singapore’s sex and entertainment industry. This demonstrates that concern about human trafficking on the island is becoming a hot topic nowadays.
While prostitution in Singapore is considered a legal business, what this actually means is that police ‘tolerates’ a certain number of brothels where prostitutes are controlled and periodically screened for health check-ups. As several members of the audience pointed out, there are women who deliberately want to work as prostitutes. For these cases labour rights should be improved to enable them to, for instance, complain about issues without being penalised.
However, as Dr Yea’s report shows, there are still too many cases in which vulnerable women (especially from surrounding countries such as Indonesia, Philippines or Thailand) are forced into prostitution as a result of coercion by a third party. Many of these women initially agreed to come and work in Singapore’s entertainment industry as singers or waitresses. However they discover the tough truth right after landing in the country. On top of that, most of them automatically carry a huge economic burden, which often makes their situation desperate.
Since demand for prostitution services will not seem to end in the foreseeable future, we must not turn a blind eye to sex trafficking in Singapore. If you would like to know more about this and other topics related to the abuse of women, you can visit the website of several organisations that are trying to improve the lives of these women, namely: The Project X (http://theprojectx.org/), HOME (http://home.org.sg/ ) and Tabitha Foundation Singapore (http://www.tabithasingapore.com/ )
By Victoria Orellana