Thursday, August 20, 1998

Elizabeth Olson

U.N. Panel Urges Sex Trade Be Recognized as Thriving Economic Sector

GENEVA -- The sex trade is a flourishing economic enterprise, and should be officially recognized as such, according to a new report issued Wednesday by the International Labor Organization, the United Nations labor panel.

The study stopped short of calling for legalization of prostitution. Its author, Lin Lim, emphasized at a press briefing that there was a vast difference between adult prostitution and child prostitution, which the ILO wants eliminated.

"These are two different phenomenons," she said. "All child prostitution is intolerable, but adults choose it for a variety of reasons. Many choose it as the most viable, lucrative alternative."

The 222-page report, titled, "The Sex Sector: The Economic and Social Bases of Prostitution in Southeast Asia," surveyed commercial sex work in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

It found the "sex sector is not recognized as an economic sector in official statistics, development plans or government budgets" in these countries.

But "the revenues it generates are crucial to the livelihoods and earnings potential of millions of workers beyond the prostitutes themselves."

Although the study was researched before Asia's current economic crisis, the economic and social forces behind the sex trade show no signs of abating, especially in the face of the region's rising unemployment, Ms. Lim said.

Based on evidence from the mid-1980s economic recession, she concluded that "it is very likely that women who lose their jobs in manufacturing and other service sectors and whose families rely on their remittances may be driven to enter the sex sector."

In Thailand, for example, the ILO found that prostitutes were sending as much as $300 million to their rural relatives each year. Based on that figure, the report estimated Thailand's over all annual income from prostitution to be from $22 billion to $27 billion.

The sex industry's revenues in Indonesia was estimated to be from $1.2 billion to $3.3 billion yearly, according to the report.

The estimates in countries were based on police, government and non- governmental organization sources, she said.

Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company

[News by region] [News by topic]

Created: August 22, 1998
Last modified: November 14, 1998

CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710