Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sex In Singapore

A prominent news magazine once said that Singapore was a fine city, and then went on to explain that you could be fined for almost anything in Singapore.

  • Jaywalking can become a blot on your police record.
  • The mosquito patrol can enter your home without a warrant and
  • check your flower pots for standing water, which constitutes
  • an offence in the Lion City.
  • Not flushing a public toilet is an infraction punishable by a fine.
  • Urinating in an elevator would get your picture in the paper in the
  • early 1990's (along with a fine of about S$800).

    Even feeding the city's wild pigeons was illegal when I was there....

  • But in this squeekiest of squeaky clean cities, prostitution is legal -- and relatively well regulated. And if you're not careful you could walk right into a brothel in some of the city's shopping malls without even realizing what you were opening the dorr to...

    Prostitution in Singapore is restricted to designated redlight areas (DRA's); some sources say there are five of these, others say six. But since they are all fairly close together, it's probably irrelevant. There are a total of about 400 brothels in the city with an estimated 10 to 20 prostitutes each. That's about 6000 prostitutes in the city...

    Prostitutes carry a yellow health card in Singapore. They must report in "regularly" for health checks. And while prostitution and brothels are legal, solicitation is not. Even in the DRA's, there are no (legal) street walkers.

    The sex industry in Singapore seems to be part of an official desire to make being "sensible" as controversial as possible. But for tourists who are not part of the Singapore mindset, the situation can become confusing. (And keep in mind that the government wants to be sensibly controversial to the International Community; the idea of citizens doing the same at home doesn't fly.) Organizations like Amnestry International and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) see things in a different light than the government of Singapore.

    The official line is that, since prostitution is going to exist, regulating it is the only sensible course of action. CATW and similar groups take the position that legalization provides protection mostly to the individuals who run the brothels, and to some lesser degree to the men who frequent such places, but rarely to the actual prostitutes. Many of Singapore's prostitutes are imported from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

    The locations for some of the city's Designated Redlight Areas is a little surprising, in as much as they exist in the heart of the city's commercial and historic districts. So while the odds may be slim, it is possible to simply stumble into one of these places -- just you, your husband, and your nine-year-old son...

    As tourists walk up and down the shop-til-you-drop store fronts and department stores on Orchard Road, few realize that Orchard Towers is one of the DRA's. Angel's Disco (formerly Club 392) in Orchard Towers is a sister-club to the Angel's Disco in Bangkok's notorious Sukhumvit area.

    Some of Singapore's DRA's are pretty seamy. Deskers Road, in the words of one sources, is "the classic low-end red light district." But it is within easy walking distance of the City Hall MRT station. The "Deskers Report" goes on the describe the area. The DRA is in...

    • "...the back alley between Desker Road and Rowell Road. Here you will find a teeming mass of humanity milling along the alley, looking in at all the doorways. Inside the doorways you will see 1 to 6 women sitting around looking bored and contemptuous in a bare room with cane chairs. Posters on the wall advise the use of condoms..."

    Deskers Road and the nearby Flanders Square DRA's can be reached by foot from the Little India section of Singapore. And if you don't know where you are or where you're going, with little effort you can accidently find yourself in the wrong alley -- appalled to find that this part of the city even exists and wondering how to get back to the tailors and trinket shops of Little India.

    Fortunately, the most popular DRA is in the Geylang area of Singapore - not a normal tourist hangout. One writer remarked on the way in which brothels, residences, and the store fronts of Indian merchants are blended together. Geylang is the land of cheap accommodation and immigrant housing in Singapore.


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