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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Help for victims

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It’s the world’s oldest profession, and it will continue to flourish because it has its roots in one of the world’s oldest problems: poverty. For several millennia, around the world, prostitution has withstood every law and every effort to stamp it out. It is rare to find a prostitute who became one willingly. Most sex workers are victims, often abused and humiliated, forced by circumstances to peddle the only item of value they can sell.

Although victims, prostitutes are treated like criminals, bearing the brunt of the law if caught. Now several lawmakers want to change this. Bills have been filed in the House of Representatives, seeking to decriminalize prostitution and proposing counseling and other forms of assistance for sex workers. The proponents also want tough penalties for pimps.

In this country, the pimps could be the parents themselves of sex workers. Many children have been sold for sex by their parents. These include teenagers featured in cyber porn – a growing problem in this country, according to a recent report. Those who recruit sex workers and peddle the porn video online must be caught and put behind bars.

One of the proponents of the House bills, Tarlac Rep. Susan Yap, cited a study by the Philippine Commission on Women, which estimated that there are about half a million sex workers in the country, most of them recruited by criminal gangs. About 100,000 of the sex workers are children.

The House bills seek to compel local governments to do more to curb prostitution. At the same time, they propose assistance for sex workers, including medical and legal aid. The bills deserve congressional support. The proposals will not encourage prostitution, as some critics are likely to argue, but will acknowledge a fact of life in a poor country and provide help for victims.

BILLS

COUNTRY

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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

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PHILIPPINE COMMISSION

PROSTITUTION

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SUSAN YAP

TARLAC REP

WORKERS

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