IN THE Philippines, poverty is a social problem due to job scarcity and lack of education. The fact that there are sometimes no good work options for them, they tend to engage in illegal ways of earning money, which leads some to engage in illegal jobs particularly prostitution
“Nicole,” not her real name, 26, is one of the sex workers in the industry. She usually spends her night streetwalking waiting for customers along Tionko Street in Davao City.
Due to early pregnancy at the age 14, she only reached second year high school. Thus, giving her a hard time looking for a job until she was introduced to the sex industry. She ended up with this “career” because she had no other means of income, and she had to support her three children.
“Daghan na ng duha mga worth P600 to 700 yan, but if naa pa dyud muhangyo kay P500. But kung foreigner kay usually P1,500 to P2,500 sila (Rates range from P600 to P700 but rates higher for foreigners),” Nicole said.
Based on Executive Order no. 24, providing for the rules and regulations implementing Ordinance No. 5004, or otherwise known as the Women Development Code of Davao City under Section 18, prostitution is a Violence of Women’s Rights. It states that prostitution shall be recognized as a violation of human rights and exploitation of women who have no real choices for survival.
Given the fact that prostitution violates women’s rights, why are there still sex workers? Were there any actions given by the government? If so, does it tolerate the growing operations of sex businesses that make women as the raw material for their industry?
According to Gina Molon, program in-charge for Child and Youth Welfare Program in City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO), prostitution has always been a part of the social problem. She said that it cannot be easily eliminated.
“We cannot easily eliminate that issue, kasi di yan profession, we have to take note na these are girls, and ‘di naman nila sinadya na mapunta dyan. We are helping them, but it is not a way of tolerating them. Kaya binigyan sila ng mga programs kasi as much as possible, we want them to get out from that place,” Molon said.
She underscored that the government has been helping them through giving programs.
“But I can mostly say na in-extend ang service ng government. We focus on the freelancer, yung nandyan sa mga crossing sit, like Tionko and San Pedro Street,” Molon said.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online site, statistics shows that there were about 36.7 million people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) around the world. And an estimated 1.1 million people died from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids) related illness in 2015.
However, particularly here in Davao City, the number of cases of people with sexually transmitted infections (STI) has grown from 10, 938 to 17, 063 in 2015-2016. Since there has been a vast growing of cases in the persons infected with such diseases, it became a problem for the sex workers.
But the City Health Office has a program where sex workers or entertainers should register, as they will be given appointment cards or pink cards to monitor and maintain their scheduled check-up every two months. It is also a form of indication that they are free from any disease. This pink card also gives them the benefit of free check-up, consultation and free condoms.
According to Gloria Serrano of Reproductive Health & Wellness Center, as of March 2017, there were 393 female registered sex workers and 35 male sex workers. But in the year 2016, registered sex workers has a total of 791 females and 34 males.
“Aside sa pink card na bigay ng City Health, of course, to protect them from STI and HIV. Sa amin naman is more on the scholarship for their child, training for the kababaihan na gustong magkaroon ng another source of income in partnership with Tesda,” Molon said.
Molon said that they were also able to give education to 89 workers and made them finish school last year.
They were also given livelihood, financial assistance for immediate needs and referral to Lingap in case they get sick. There are also social workers that monitor them for immediate purposes. Molon also said that they conduct quarterly meetings with them, discussing their issues and concerns if there are abusive customers who need attention. They were also given programs such as parenting skills.
“Para di mapasa sa mga bata and sana ma enhance man lang, kasi may mga problema talaga doon sa capability nila to become a parent because of their economic status,” Molon said.
Molon added that they protect abused women, and they immediately respond to any forms of abuse.
“These are victims, if they’re given a choice, and opportunities in life, they wouldn’t end up in this kind of job. We just have to understand it has a reason. If you happened to have constant communication with them, you would understand the deepness of the problem,” Molon said.
“Sinong gustuhin maging ganyan? And anong gawin ng government? Tayo? We have to help. We do not say that by helping them we are already tolerating their acts, no it’s not,” she added.
Molon also said that their situation is pushing them to do such actions, that’s why the government is there to help them and give them their needs.
“But at the end, the decision lies on their hands and not from us, we are just helping them,” Molon said. (Alexandrea Ignacio)