MORE THAN 45 MILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE ARE VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING
79% ARE WOMEN AND CHILDREN, FOR SEXUAL OR LABOUR EXPLOITATION
34 TRAFFICKING CASES INVESTIGATED IN 2017. 22 WERE CASES OF SUSPECTED SEX TRAFFICKING
How does sex trafficking work?
Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking, specifically for the purpose of sexual exploitation. It occurs when someone is forced, coerced or cheated into a commercial sex act such as prostitution, pornography, and any sexual performance in exchange for items of value like money, food, shelter, or drugs.
Does it happen in Singapore?
In Singapore, prostitution in regulated red-light districts is legal. Sex workers and brothels are issued special licenses by the police’s Specialised Crime Branch, also known as the anti-vice department, to operate. However, certain prostitution-related activities are illegal, such as pimping, importing a woman for sex work (even if she is consensual), and public solicitation.
The problem is that the laws in Singapore both tolerate and criminalise sex work at the same time. The government has stated that they do this so that it is easier to regulate prostitution, but it also means that sex trafficking then becomes more difficult to track and abolish.
In fact, in 2010 and in 2017, Singapore was categorised as Tier 2 in the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report published by the U.S. Department of State. Tier 2 is a category for countries that have a significant number of trafficking victims and have failed to show efforts to combat the situation.
Why is it difficult to stop sex-trafficking in Singapore?
Many women who end up in Singapore as sex workers are lured with promises of highly paid professional work, or as waitresses or hostesses. Upon their arrival, they might have their passports taken from them and are forced into sex work to pay o their debts. With no way to get help, most victims have no choice but to agree.
In addition, most of these women enter Singapore on tourist visas. Therefore, when they are caught, they are treated as immigration offenders rather than victims of sex trafficking, making them more vulnerable to reentering the sex trade as they are not allowed to find legal work or even return home. As many come from Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, even when victims want help, language barriers stop them from getting it.