This petition is made out of our belief that as members of a civilised society we have a responsibility to treat every person, regardless of age, social or economic status, ethnicity, nationality or religion, with respect, dignity and common humanity, and ensure the protection of the most vulnerable against those who seek to exploit and degrade them for personal gratification. We demand that positive action be taken immediately by Singaporeans and Singapore residents to help stop the commercial sexual exploitation of children overseas...
and at home!
Few Syracuse University seniors travel to the other side of the world to work on their theses as Joleen Zanuzoski did when she spent her spring break interviewing prostitutes in Singapore.
The interviews were part of the research Zanuzoski, a history and political science major, was conducting for a senior research thesis project.
She first became interested in prostitution after watching the HBO movie "Born into Brothels," about prostitution in India, and last semester while studying abroad in Hong Kong, she was able to begin researching in earnest, she said.
"Singapore was recommended to me; a professor in Hong Kong said it'd be a great place to go," Zanuzoski said.
Zanuzoski said she then began interviewing prostitutes in Singapore two weeks at a time while studying abroad and was both shocked and fascinated by some of the stories she heard. The memory of one in particular stuck with her.
After paying a taxi driver to translate for her, Zanuzoski had him ask how old the prostitute was.
"(After I asked), she laughed and didn't answer the question," Zanuzoski said. "It turns out she was 10 and had started two years ago. She started when she was 8. That's when I saw this project was huge."
This story is just another example of the contradictions inherent to Singapore, she said.
"It's a huge contradiction of a country," Zanuzoski said. "Porn's illegal. Chewing gum is illegal. They can (beat people with canes) legally. Brothels are completely legal."
It was at these high-class brothels that Zanuzoski spent most of her time during spring break, after receiving contacts from Gerrie Lim, the author of a book on the high-class sex trade in Singapore, and funding from the SU history department.
After writing to the authors of different books on prostitution in Singapore, "she heard from the author of one of the principal books, and he said if she came back he'd introduce her to his contacts," said Margaret Thompson, an associate professor of history and Zanuzoski's adviser.
Thompson said she is amazed at the initiative Zanuzoski showed, considering the thesis is not a requirement for graduation.
"She's been incredibly creative," she said. "Some people research in a lab, in a library or in sex bars in Singapore."
Zanuzoski was able to return with the help of the Wortman and Elman scholarships, which the SU history department offers for undergraduate research, Thompson said.
It was then that Zanuzoski discovered just how organized the sex trade in Singapore is.
Prostitution in Singapore is not only legal, Zanuzoski said, it is world-renowned. She recalled one madame, the woman who runs a brothel, who listed some of the different foreigners who visit her house.
"All of her clients are American, Australian and European businessmen," she said. "Multi-billion-dollar businessmen like a person from ExxonMobil. They're all married for the most part, but they have weird fetishes and they want to keep it secret."
While these businessmen come to Singapore seeking the services of prostitutes, many women come there in search of the quick money available in prostitution. The high-class sex workers can make as much as $450,000 a year, Zanuzoski said. In addition, Singapore is known for having one of the most worker-friendly environments, she said.
"(The prostitutes) come to Singapore because they know it's the safest place to do this," Zanuzoski said. "It's kind of this huge facade. It's very well done. They completely think this is a lucrative profession. It's been taught to be acceptable to them. They say American girls have sex with their employers for personal gain - they're doing this for personal gain. They're rationalizing it."
While Zanuzoski was in Singapore interviewing prostitutes and exploring the red light districts, her sisters in the sorority Delta Delta Delta laughed at her e-mails and worried about her, said Allison Rothman, a junior political science major.
"I'd be in hysterics when I read her e-mails," Rothman said. "They were so funny."
But when she really considered what Zanuzoski was researching, Rothman saw the more serious aspect of it.
"I thought about how uncomfortable I'd be," Rothman said. "It's frightening, I think."
While Zanuzoski said she felt uncomfortable most of the time and frightened more than a few times, since she was repeatedly asked whether she was a CIA agent, she said that it was all worth it.
"Undergraduate experience is such an incredible opportunity; I wish I would've done it earlier," Zanuzoski said.
Zanuzoski said her paper, while more than 100 pages right now, is nowhere near done, but she hopes to do more with it than just receive an A.
Zanuzoski would like to publish her work and, after meeting with a publisher who seemed supportive, she thinks it will happen.
"I think it'll work out," Zanuzoski said. "I have a lot more to do."
What she has already done, however, is inspiring to those who know her.
"It's incredible," Rothman said, adding that she is now taking similar subjects very seriously. "I watched a Lifetime movie on human trafficking and am really interested in that now."
© Copyright 2006 The Daily Orange
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