“Sino and Tunay na Kriminal?”
The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), together with survivors of prostitution and trafficking, held a press conference today at Quezon City to warn voters against candidates who are buyers of women and protectors of the prostitution industry. The press conference carried the theme “Sino and Tunay na Kriminal?”
CATW-AP Executive Director, Jean Enriquez, expressed the groups’ concerns saying that many of the women victimized by politician-buyers are minors who are vulnerable and powerless. Also, most of them suffer various forms of physical violence, rape and degradation in the hands of customers and pimps resulting in low self-esteem and damaging their body and spirit.
“These women, often referred to as criminals, are actually victims of the system of prostitution. The violence and abuses they suffer in the hands of customers and pimps cause deep wounds in their being. Sadly, this is made worse by politicians/government officials who buy and use them for (the purpose of) sexual exploitation. They are supposed to provide protection and support to women yet are the ones who inflict pain and suffering — they are the real criminals!” Enriquez said.
The situation of prostituted women is made worse by policies and laws that treat them as criminals and scum of society. Also, the issuance of licenses to prostitution businesses by the government makes it difficult to shift the stigma towards the real criminals — the buyers, pimps and others who gain from the industry.
Anna, a 13-year old victim-survivor of prostitution testified how she was abused by a professed congressman. The owner of a club in Metro Manila urged all the GROs to “show up in front of the congressman” for the latter to choose among them. As Anna was chosen, she narrated that “pinanood niya ako ng bold at habang nanood sya ng bold, hinihipo niya ang buo kung katawan. Pagkatapos nyang uminom ay ginamit niya ako, pinasubo niya sa akin ang ari nya. Pagkatapos niya akung gamitin iniwan niya akung hubot hubad sa VIP room.”
Another survivor of prostitution and leader of Bagong Kamalayan Collective Inc. (BKCI), a survivors’ group of prostitution and trafficking, bravely recounted how she was abused and violated by a politician.
“Iniregalo po ako sa isang politiko nang ako ay kinse anyos pa lamang. Dinala po ako, kasama ang dalawa pang batang babae sa bahay ng politico bilang regalo at doon ay walang-sawang ginamit at inabuso, pinaso ako ng sigarilyo at… Ito po ay dating gobernador sa Visayas. Sa ngayon, ang may-ari naman ng club na umabuso rin sa akin ay tumatakbo uling konsehal sa isang distrito sa Metro Manila, at nangangamba ako na siya ang iboboto ng mga tao. Ito ba ang gusto nating maglingkod sa ating bayan? Kapag nanatili siya sa kanyang posisyon ay patuloy siyang mang-aabuso at mananakit ng ibang tao, lalo na ng mga kababaihan.”
Enriquez and the survivors emphasized further that, “Voters must be aware and vigilant of the local and national candidates they will vote. We must closely examine their intentions and purposes and not bank on their rosy promises.”
In doing so, the group presented their negative list in choosing national and local candidates:
·Buyers and abusers of women in prostitution;
·Protectors of the prostitution industry;
·Aggressively promoting the labor-export industry, which becomes channel for trafficking;
·Defenders of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which creates a demand for prostitution.
CATW-AP and BKCI asked the public to vote instead those national and local candidates who:
·Push for the creation of a full-employment agenda
·Push for the immediate passage of the Anti-Prostitution Act and local anti-prostitution ordinances.
These would eventually provide women the conditions for regaining their worth and dignity and shifting the accountability to the real criminals and perpetrators.
Asked “who the real criminals are,” the survivors pointed their fingers toward a huge campaign poster bearing the caricature drawings of politicians.