It breaks my heart to read stories like these, no matter which country it occurs in. I know the sex industry has been going on since time started and no matter what the law says, it will continue because when there is demand, there will be supply. In my opinion, most of these sex workers hardly have any choice but to do what they do. (I mean, do you really think these women will subject themselves to being beaten up, arrested and risk getting diseases just for fun?)
Least men who want to sleep with them can do, is to treat these sex workers with respect and try to have safe sex. Why should they be treated badly just because they are providing you with a service that you seek out knowingly? And the story below isn't about the sex industry in the Burma /Thailand border, it is of the one that is in Yangon (the former capital of Burma).
I'm always reminded of how lucky I am too. I'm glad there are organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders
By Charlotte Mcdonald-Gibson
Sex workers have little access to healthcare and other support - a potentially disastrous situation when between 20 and 30 percent of prostitutes are believed to be HIV positive
SANDAR was 13 years old when her mother talked her into selling her virginity to help pull the family out of poverty.
Two decades later and still far away from that goal, Sandar has been arrested for prostitution more times then she can recall, jailed twice, and forced to pay bribes or have sex with policemen in exchange for her freedom. Her friend Sei Sar Nyo, who sits beside Sandar grasping her hand, has been beaten for asking clients to use a condom.
Sei Sar Nyo’s family no longer talk to her, and she faces regular abuse in socially conservative Myanmar. Despite the hardships, Sandar, who gave one name only and is now 33, and Sei Sar Nyo, 25, laugh when asked what other job they would do. Nothing else would pay so well, they say.
“I’m not interested in any other business,” says Sei Sar Nyo. “If I worked in a company I would earn 30,000 kyat (about $24) in a month - in this job I earn that in a night.” These two women come from very different social backgrounds, but ended up in Yangon’s underground sex industry for the same reason - to support their families in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Both are now working during the day for international charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), but their nights are spent selling sex in the city’s brothels, restaurants and karaoke bars. “Economic factors (are) getting worse and worse, and so there are more and more sex workers,” said one aid worker who did not want to be named.
Humanitarian organisations here estimate there are at least 15,000 sex workers in Yangon, but the trade remains firmly behind closed doors in this military-run country.
“When I was 13 years old, I had 11 brothers and sisters and we faced economic hardship,” says Sandar, a slight women in an orange T-shirt and black sarong whose tired face is beginning to show the years of hardship.
“Then a broker came to my mother and asked if I would become a sex worker.” With her mother’s encouragement, Sandar eventually agreed. The first time was painful and traumatic, but she carried on for the sake of her family. Sei Sar Nyo, a prim, pretty young woman in glasses and traditional clothing, comes from a more prosperous background but has similar motives for her decision four years ago to become a prostitute.
“I’m married and my husband is HIV-positive,” says Sei Sar Nyo, who has a young son. Her husband, who passed the HIV infection on to her, was bedridden and unable to work.
“I had a lot of problems and no one to depend on,” she says. A friend convinced Sei Sar Nyo to start working in a restaurant, which turned out to be an illegal brothel.
“Once I found out I was so sad, but I stayed because I had a lot of family problems and a lot of debt,” she says. Unlike in many neighbouring countries such as Thailand where scantily-clad prostitutes can be picked up at noisy bars, no such red light district exists in Yangon.
Men head to karaoke bars, tucked-away brothels, or restaurants like the one Sei Sar Nyo works in, where waiters set up “dates” for a cut of the takings. With her youth and good looks, Sei Sar Nyo can earn up to 25,000 kyat (about $20) per client - a princely sum in impoverished Myanmar.
The country has been under military rule since 1962, and a series of dictatorships have ruined what was once one of Asia’s most promising economies. The current junta spends a tiny proportion of GDP on health and education, and rising commodity prices are pushing more people into poverty.
Despite the critical humanitarian situation, international donors have scaled down aid because of the regime’s human rights abuses and the detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Independent aid groups say they struggle to operate free of junta interference, and many have withdrawn.
All of which means vulnerable groups like sex workers have little access to healthcare and other support - a potentially disastrous situation when between 20 and 30 percent of prostitutes are believed to be HIV positive. Sei Sar Nyo says she sometimes has unprotected sex because she needs the money, and sees a disturbing flippancy among older men.
“When I negotiate for using the condom, I explain that I am HIV-positive. They say ‘I don’t care’,” she tells AFP. Until a few years ago, a woman could be arrested on suspicion of prostitution for carrying a condom and so prostitutes were reluctant to use them.
This law was withdrawn, but Frank Smithuis, Myanmar country manager for MSF, says that sex workers are still targeted by the authorities. “There is a huge incentive for a policeman to grab a sex worker in most countries, and Myanmar is no exception,” Smithuis says. “You can get money from the sex worker or free sex in exchange to avoid arrest.” He points to neighbouring Thailand, where there is an informal agreement that police will not target brothels promoting safe sex, and says Myanmar would benefit from a similar arrangement.
MSF has five clinics for sex workers in Yangon, which offer free condoms, diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). They also hire women like Sandar and Sei Sar Nyo to visit brothels and talk to their peers about safe sex and the importance of regular STD tests.
“I want to share my life experience,” says Sei Sar Nyo. “I don’t want my friends to become like me. I would like my friends to use condoms.” afpPosted by Yangon Thu at April 26, 2007 07:15 PM