Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Foreign Workers And Foreign Sex Workers

Abuse At Nightingale Nursing Centre - Foreign Workers To Be Blamed?

Earlier this week, local media released disturbing video images of how an elderly stroke patient was mistreated by employees at Nightingale Nursing Centre. Expectedly, this triggered a flurry of comments and reactions from many people.

Scanning through the online comments, it struck me that besides condemning the abuse that took place, many of the comments seem to focus on how, based on the video images, the employees who committed the abuse are foreign workers. In fact, these comments appear to conclude that the abuse occurred because the employees are foreign nationals.

In my opinion, while it is indeed true that the employees who committed the abuse are foreign nationals, the focus here should be on the abuse that was committed and how to prevent such abuse from occurring again and not on the nationality of the employees. The employees' nationality is secondary, if not irrelevant, to this whole issue.

Would it have made a difference if instead of being foreign nationals, the employees who committed the abuse were Singaporeans? Would such abuse not have happened if instead of hiring foreign nationals, the nursing centre had locals taking care of the patients?

If indeed nationality is an issue, then perhaps Singaporeans should be prohibited from hiring foreign maids, judging from the many reported cases of maid abuse committed by Singaporeans.

In the end, although we may be dissatisfied with the government's policy of bringing in foreigners to work here and become part of the population, we should not let this cloud our thinking and conclude that foreigners is the root of all problems found here.

Foreign Sex Workers in Singapore - Where Is The Demand Coming From?

Today (11 June 2011), The Straits Times (ST) published a special feature about sexual trafficking in Singapore.

Reading through the feature, it seems to me that although it said a lot about the victims of sexual trafficking, their experiences and plight, it however said little, if not nothing, about the clientele of the "thriving" (ST's word, not mine) local sex industry.

As it is said in economics, with demand comes supply. Surely, if foreign sex workers are being supplied or trafficked into Singapore, there must be a demand for them and their services. Thus, in my opinion, if we are to solve the problem of sexual trafficking, it is not sufficient to only hit at the sources that are supplying the trafficked sex workers but also at the sources of demand.

Bearing the above in mind, the question would then be: who are the ones consuming the services of foreign sex workers in Singapore?

As was stated above, the answer of such a question is largely missing from the ST special feature. The feature however does have a few picture captions or lines which mentioned that foreign sex workers operating in the Orchard Towers vicinity are seen with Caucasian men (italics mine).

And during my university study, I once heard a local female undergraduate remarking that if we do not allow foreign sex workers to enter Singapore, male foreign workers in Singapore "...will rape us" (no, I am not making this up; I wish I was).

It would thus seem that there exist an impression among some that demand for paid sex in Singapore is perhaps more of a "foreign demand", if you all get what I mean.

Yet, as limited as my knowledge of the local sex industry is, it would seem to me that although demand for paid sex in Singapore can indeed partly stem from non-Singaporean men, the bulk of such a demand would perhaps still be coming from Singaporean men.

Evidently, any statement about who forms the bulk of the clientele of the local sex industry will be anecdotal (mine also) as, to my knowledge so far, there has been no study examining the question of who exactly are the ones paying for sex in Singapore. [Aside: I have however partially browsed through a book, at the Vivocity Page One bookstore, that talked about prostitution in Asia; the book has sections talking about the men who patronise such services]

Hence, what is perhaps critically needed is a study to examine who forms the clientele of the local sex industry - their profile and what pushes/pulls them to pay for sex (beyond physical lust, of course). Only then would the picture perhaps be complete; now, with maybe only half the picture, any solution to the problem of sexual trafficking would perhaps be only a half-solution.


Anonymous_X said...

foreign supply due to foreign demand?? lol. somewhat makes sense, really...

Anonymous said...

Hi LCC, I'm really glad you brought this issue up. Having been away from Singapore, my only source of local news seems to be what my friends post on facebook, and I am getting increasingly uneasy about how "alternative" news sources like the temasek review are focusing every other news story on foreigners. Like you said, it really is quite unnecessary (and, for lack of a better word, ugly) for singaporeans to keep focussing on the nationality of the "bad guy" whenever things like this happen.

chillycraps said...

That can very well be a sociology research project

LCC said...

To Laicite,

Yes, I get what you mean. And what's more worrying is that this antipathy against foreigners appears to be targeted against a few particular nationalities; make one wonders if there is something more insidious under-girding this antipathy.

Ironically enough, opposition politicians seem to recognise they too have a part to play in stirring up this antipathy.

P.S. Didn't know you Facebook too, haa.

To Chillycraps,

Yeah, I suspect an examination into the profile and motivations of men in Singapore (be they Singaporeans or otherwise) who pay for sex will provide findings that can be quite interesting and maybe even unsettling to some.

On that note, perhaps a study into the profile and motivations of men in Singapore who do not pay for sex should also be done for comparison's sake. Perhaps also to identify what is it that differentiates men who pay for sex from men who don't.

LCC said...

A friend of mine referred me to this study.

I wonder if the findings from this study can be applied to the Singapore context.

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