The Main Issue is Survival
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FEATURE

The Main Issue is Survival


By AUNG THET WINE/ THE IRRAWADDY Thursday, February 2, 2012


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This job is very convenient for me,” she says. 

She says she does not sleep with every customer, but mainly has sex with those who regularly visit her parlor and spend a lot of money for drinks—she has freedom of choice, a better situation than that of many other sex workers.

“There are various types of customers coming to the massage parlor,” Sophie says. “I don’t need to sleep with everyone. Some people just come for massage, touch me here and there, give me some pocket money and then leave. If I have a frog [slang for a rich man] of my own, it will be very convenient for me and the parlor. If someone can hook a few frogs, she won’t be very tired.”

Sophie’s story is representative of many girls who work in Rangoon massage parlors. Most of the parlors want girls like her who come from other areas of Burma, because once they take the job they normally do not leave for other occupations.  

“The reason why such parlors have more and more girls from other areas is because when they first arrived in Rangoon they took jobs at tailors and other places, but their salary couldn’t cover their living expenses. So while looking for alternatives, some ended up being in massage parlors and KTVs [Karaoke television brothels], while some others became full-time sex workers on the streets. The main issue is survival,” says the manager of a massage parlor. 

He says the life of the girls working in massage parlors is much more secure than those on the streets.

“If they are on the streets, no one will protect them. But if they are in the parlors, we have to take care of them when they don’t get along with customers or have some sort of problem. If a customer is drunk and not well-behaved, waiters will drag him out.”

However, he says that the massage parlor girls have to work about 18 hours a day, so they don’t have much time to sleep. They earn 10,000 kyat [US $13] salary and at least 500 kyat [US $0.6] for a one hour massage session. They will also get pocket money from their customers.

“If a customer and a girl agree to have sex, both the parlor and the girl will earn money,” he says. “In any case, a girl can make at least 250,000 kyat [US $325] per month, excluding expenses for living.”      

During the run-up to Burma’s general election in November 2010, all massage parlors in Rangoon Division were told to shut down by the police. Then after the new government was sworn in at the end of March, the parlors once again had to close for several months as the regional government cracked down on them.  

Sophie says that some girls continued to work at massage parlors that risked staying open, but many parlors were raided and three of her friends were arrested and charged with prostitution. When her parlor was forced to shut down, she instead contacted her regular customers and slept with them outside the brothel.

“Whenever there was an operation we had to stop working for months, so I had to call my regular customers and ask for help. But those girls who couldn’t reach their customers had to go out on the streets. They didn’t have any choice. Some even had to go to wherever they were taken in order to make money to buy food,” she says.



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Peter Shwe Wrote:
07/02/2012
I think somebody has got to open their mouth about reality. Due to poverty and lack of development in the country, it is not surprising thing that young girls are like this to fight for their survival and the family back home. In my opinion, the system that we operate in the country should be looked at. When people do not have education or their skill to support themselves, the first thing they will do is, they will find the contacts. If they found the person who is establishing the business like beauty parlors, this business owner will use these girls to enhance their business as mentioned in the article. Because it is not legal, people will do this behind the curtain. Sex workers should be registered legally. The reason I am saying is this business must be monitored by the Health Professions, to ensure that no STDs( Sexually Transmitted Diseases ) should be spread out in the public. This is very important to monitor these businesses. We do not want to die with STD like HIV, AIDs.

TAH Wrote:
03/02/2012
Well I think just legalise this industry like in the West so that they can do their job professionally and also away from exploitation and oppression and discrimination. Just see this as one of professional jobs. What is the use of classifying this industry in Burma as illegal or un-social thing when there are many such establishments (all illegally or under the protection of local police fore)? Or in the face of even senior officers visiting them? Time is there to recognise them as legal and protect them, make them one part of country's economic growth.

Public View Wrote:
03/02/2012
It is very embarrassing story to be heard. In my opinion, it is a sign of poverty and lack of education in our community. Whatever happens I do not want our the next young generation to learn these. We don't want our young generation to feed themselves with these subway jobs. People may be reluctant to work harder with skills using their knowledge and strength. The elder women are teaching their young generation to earn money in easy way doesn't sort their survivals out. What they don't understand is our country is not advanced like Europe countries. HIV and AIDS are easily able to spread up and it could loose a lot of lives in the country because there isn't effective protection and prevention from those communicable diseases. I feel ashamed that we shouldn't encourage these if we are unable to prevent the infection diseases. I would strongly urge that somebody has got to look into this in dept and to take appropriate actions for the sake of our long life and the country's goodness.

sai suriya Wrote:
03/02/2012
Totally rubbish articles as if non burman lady are not working in this kind of trade. Why is the specifically mention ethnic ladies? Be fair. Most Bamar ladies are working as well.

Disgusting the way they portray this articles. Do you think Bamar girl are shame to this kind of job?

Liz Hilton Wrote:
03/02/2012
well another same old same old ... Why haven't your journalists spoken with the Burma sex worker leaders and their organization based in Rangoon, Mandalay and many other towns? They have a membership of over 7000 sex workers fighting to improve their situation..(we have always respected you enough to use 'Burma' not 'Myanmar' when will you respect us enough to use sex worker not prostitute?) Many are even Burman and educated ..so go figure. Why is it on this issue it seems Irrawaddy is unable to say anything useful, new, or even relevant? Some -ism or other I guess

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