[People] Who permits the sex industry? by Fr. Shay Cullen

Who permits the sex industry?
Fr. Shay Cullen

The brutal murder of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, 26, a transgender person in a hotel near the Subic Bay Freeport Zone last October 11, 2014 allegedly by US serviceman Pvt. 1st Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps, who has been charged by Philippine police, highlights the ever growing presence of the government-approved and protected sex tourism in the Philippines.

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While the fate of “Jennifer” is deplored by all who respect the dignity and right to life of everyone, we must not think this is an isolated crime. We must not forget the estimated 100,000 under-age children who are abused, trafficked, sold and sexually exploited in the sex clubs, bars, brothels and beach resorts all over the country.

It attracts pedophiles and sex tourists from all over the world, most coming from Korea, the USA, Japan, the UK, Australia and EU countries. Many become child abusers and return to their own countries to endanger children there.

The increasing presence in the Philippines of a large number of US servicemen under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and its most recent expansion under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) which allows US military to occupy and set up a base within the Philippine camps and bases is not only a very questionable circumvention of the constitutional ban on foreign military bases in the Philippines but it is also aggravating and adding to the rampant and shameful prostitution and sexual exploitation of trafficked children and young women.

This sordid business is already ravaging our young people and destroying the good name of the Philippines. When government officials issue operating business permits to the sex bars, in effect it is an invitation that is encouraging human trafficking by offering our young, under-age girls for sex tourists and military personnel to come and abuse them. It is also counter to Philippine law and the US anti-human trafficking policy and laws and programmes of the US State Department. The US military will also have to enforce restrictions on their troops visiting the Philippines.

Since Philippine government officials allow this business, it is tacitly approving the outcomes: women are made into sex objects, dignity is trampled upon and young people are exploited, abused and murdered. Although I doubt if President Aquino is aware of the extent and negative impact of the sex trade on women and children and on his own administration and international reputation. While human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is a worldwide crime in developed and developing nations, it has to be stamped out and opposed everywhere and especially in the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

The Catholic Church ought to be more outspoken and apply its moral influence on public opinion and government to oppose the trafficking of persons and the sex trade and be actively involved in protecting the family, women and children. Pope Francis has condemned it in all its evil forms. The sex trade morally corrupts men, some of whom sexually abuse their own children. Clergy are corrupted too. Bishops and parish priests must take an open stand and speak against such slavery and abuse or their silence might be mistaken as consent.

The bars, clubs and brothels can only operate when public opinion leaves it unchallenged and the mayor of a town or city gives them a business permit. The mayor and town council only have to ban sex bars and deny such permits to bring much of the dirty business to an end. They refuse to do so in many places and that makes them part of the exploitation of the victims.

We know that is the true situation from the testimony of the many children that have been rescued from these houses of hell on earth. In these places that are called foreign investment enterprises, young women and children are made to suffer for the sexual gratification of local and international sex tourists.

There is outrage and cries for justice for Jennifer because it has political connotations yet there has been no such rage and outcry over the murder and rape of Filipino children in their own homes by their own fathers and relatives. The unjust dismissal of charges by compromised prosecutors and even unjust acquittals by judges of child rapists and sex tourists, even when evidence of guilt is clear and insurmountable, are a disgrace. The Department of Justice and the Supreme Court administrator need to investigate them.

Government inaction allows human slavery and trafficking of persons to continue. So long as it does, we can expect more horrible crimes against those abused in the sex industry in the future, many of them underage. What is needed, too, is more employment with dignity for youth and educational support and opportunities for the children of rural, poor, families. End shaycullen@preda.org

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