Legalize prostitution in the Philippines! Saying that in the halls of Congress, and you have to sponsor a bill to amend existing laws related to the legal prohibition of prostitution, is like placing a huge x mark on your forehead. It’ s like political suicide, with a worse backlash suffered by the proponents of the RH Bill from certain religious communities.
According to the data presented by the Philippine Commission on Women, in relation to the Anti-Prostitution Bill filed last year, there are around 400,000 to 500,000 prostituted persons in the Philippines. The figure includes women, some male, transvestites and children. As of 1997, there are around 60,000 to 100,000 child prostitutes, with Metro Manila, Angeles City, Puerto Galera in Mindoro Province, Davao and Cebu as the top five areas for child prostitution and sex tourism. Child prostitution is, and should always be, covered by criminal prohibition.
But as far as prostitutes of legal age, and 18 is considered as the age when individuals can make decisions for themselves in the Philippines, the recent report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) entitled “Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific” has stirred a semblance of debate in the country. I doubt if it’s going to be a vigorous debate because the topic of prostitution will always be discussed with hushed voices.
The report essentially says, “legalize prostitution in the Philipines.” According to the UNDP document, as reported: “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.” This portion of the report, taken in isolation, shows the well-meaning intent of the report. Indeed, come to think of it, if you use your mind or skills in doing your livelihood, sex workers use a different set of skills to perform their work. And just like anyone else, they put food on their family’s dining table. They are more prone to diseases and physical abuse. The report suggests the decriminalization and regulation of prostitution.
There’s a reason why prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world. It has always been there, and will always be there, even if we pretend otherwise. I’m reminded of the recent news involving a Catholic priest who is fond of going to a night club. He was sacked by the Church, of course, but in connection with that issue, we can choose to look deeper into night clubs and prostitution.
We cannot totally ignore the contents of the UNDP report because it raises valid points. Prostitution is legal and regulated in in many parts of the world. Legalizing prostitution in the Philippines will better protect sex workers. But will it protect the society? Does it dehumanize sex workers? Is it an affront to the family and the religious sensibilities of the Filipinos? Let’s hear from you.