11 Apr 2006

History major interviews prostitutes in Singapore as part of senior thesis project

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!

Dan Thalkar
Posted: 4/10/06
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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Sign the petition "Action by Singaporeans and Singapore Residents to help stop the commercial sexual exploitation of children overseas" and at home!

10 comments:

clyde said...

The girl started out when she was 8??? That is messed up... I find it hard to believe a person of that age could even be capable of considering such a career. Furthermore, I believe most children in the sex trade are there against their will.

I know the age of materialism amongst girls keeps getting lower and lower and some will decide to whore themselves for money. But this girl was barely 2 years out of kindergarden..wth??

Anonymous said...

As shown over TV programmes, many tourists came to sg, not to travel but to work as illegal sex workers at chinatown, joo chiat and geylang.

When caught and sent back to their respective countries, some even came back within a short period of time with faked passports.

Just like recent case of a Vietnamese lady, who was unsatisfied of earning little in her own country, constantly came to sg and malaysia to work as sex worker (with faked passport). But unfortunately fell to death from window (partially naked) when a man, she was serving him in his flat, somewhat tried to harrass her.

Anonymous said...

why would CIA be pursuing prostitutes? more likely the casino syndicates need information on how to add variety

Anonymous said...

I am not sure about the authenticity of the interview with the purported 10 year old prostitute. The oldest profession in Singapore is rather well regulated (like most things over here) and child sex is not tolerated by the authorities. Singapore's legal red light districts are well known - go read "No Money, No Honey" by David Brazil. If there is underaged prostitution going on, likely it is underground, i.e. run by private operators out of official licencing controls. It should be a very select club and not for "retail".

If the foreigners who believe there is trafficking of children for the sex trade, they should lodge a complaint with the police (anti-vice) with names and places for them to raid. AV regularly raids Tui Nas and massage palours that flout regulations.

Matilah_Singapura said...

I think men who have sex with children are evil bastards who ought to be CANED. I think the people who promote these activities should receive the DEATH SENTENCE...

BUT there is no way I'll support this petition because it gives the government - who obviously no one trusts, judging from the posts here - extra territorial powers.

Can you imagine this kind of legislation being used against a would-be opposition member? Are you people crazy to give this kind of power to a govt who would use the ISA against political opponents, or trump up a charge under the Entertainment Act to silence dissent.

There are free market solutions to this. One way would be to target a few of the pervs, film them and post their images online (without the sex of course) - where their wives and family can see who they really are.

Also lobby the govts of those countries famed for child sex to beef up their police.

Anonymous said...

Who should film these pervs?

Yourself or someone like yourself: then, who give you such rights? What motivates you to do something like that? Even though they are pervs, that still does not give you the rights to invade their privacy.

Govt: will this not give the authorities more power to invade the privacies of people at their own discretion? Who defines the 'pervs'?

Lobbying: perhaps you have not noticed, some of their guards give the blessing in most 60 minutes documentary on this subject.

Matilah_Singapura said...

You've illustrated the answer to your own question. The media (like 60 minutes) occasionally goes out and does a story on child sex, and there is always a strong public reaction. Many men are immediately placed under suspicion by their significant others. To me this is a good thing.

Just because the local authorities "give their blessing" (which is not all of the time - they just busted Gary Glitter in Vietnam) doesn't mean we give extra territorial powers to our own governments willy nilly. The local police will have to be re-educated, and also the local population. This process takes time - it is a hard slog thrying to change a culture - as some of these cultures don't subscribe to the same mores of "public morality" as our own. They also have lousy economies - economic systems incapable of creating wealth which empowers individuals. (which is why they are Turd World Cuntries in the first place).

Thus the main cause of children being exploited for sex is POVERTY, caused by lack of education, opportunity and corrupt regimes. Many of these kids shouldn't even be born - but their mothers (many of whom are children themselves) are also uneducated, disempowered and do not have the choice of readily available birth control like women in developed (capitalist) societies.

People in developed countries (generally speaking) PLAN their families. Many of the poor women have no means of supporting their kids. These women are too young, uneducated and SINGLE.

However, when Adidas or Nike set up a factories in developing countries - factories which employs women and children, bozos from the UN and the unions in western countries scream "Exploitation! Human Rights violation!" The irony is that these disingenuous do-gooders shop at WalMart et al, have kids who wear Nikes, and probably own mutual funds which invest in "emerging markets".

Let's look at Thailand - where I'm currently stationed. These days, paedophiles are being busted by the local authorities. The Thais have legislation and the infrastructure to enforce the law and to prosecute and punish people who exploit children for sex. 20 or so years ago it was a haven for child sex exploiters. There are still ways to go yet, but it is definitely better now, compared to say, the 60's - there is less poverty and a huge and growing middle class, which to me means that capitalism - the saviour of mankind - is doing its work.

Many expat women go out on their on volition and help the kids and their single young mothers. These "farang" women do this in their own time and without pay. This is pure self directed effort. Their motivation? Personal values and a selfish drive to help others less fortunate than they are.

Self directed action beats govt intervention any day. And it has long term results which stick.

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