Although widespread prostitution has been a reality in the Philippines for decades (with the economies of whole regions like Angeles City and Subic Bay relying on it), the exchange of money for sex remains officially illegal in the country. Everyone knows what goes on in places like Fields Avenue, but for the most part it continues unabated. That is at least until something happens that causes a bar or two to get busted. After local government leadership called a meeting with Angeles City bar owners recently things again heated up a little, with Candy Bar on Don Juico being raided and shut down, at least temporarily. What’s next? Who knows. There’s little chance the Angeles City red light district will be shut down anytime soon, but more raids could be on the menu.
While this game continues to be played, several United Nations agencies are suggesting that the Philippines drop the pretense and simply decriminalize sex work. The recommendation comes in the form of a report called Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific.
A report from the Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom summed things up:
The Philippines and other Asian countries should decriminalize sex-related jobs in order to provide sex workers access to basic rights and to control the spread of sexually transmitted infections especially HIV, a new United Nations report said.
“The legal recognition of sex work as an occupation enables sex workers to claim benefits, to form or join unions and to access work-related banking, insurance, transport and pension schemes.”
[I]n decriminalized contexts, the sex industry can be subject to the same general laws regarding workplace health and safety and anti-discrimination protections as other industries.”
Decriminalization, the report said, involves the repeal of laws criminalizing sex work, being clients to sex workers or enganging in activities associated with sex work.
It should also repeal laws that require mandatory testing or treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or other STIs, as well as laws that allow detention of sex workers for rehabilitation or correction.
The report stressed that Filipino sex workers remain highly vulnerable to STIs including HIV as well as sexual and physical abuse due to stigma.
Semi-old news and a recommendation not likely to be followed I know, but relevant in the light of recent events.
As it stands, the sale of some or all sexual services also remains officially outlawed in Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, despite its prominence. It’s legal in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Singapore, four of the richest and most developed parts of Asia.