Sexual Prejudice At Its Absolute Worst
Singapore: Sexual Prejudice At Its Absolute Worst
29 June 2004
On the one hand we are told in no uncertain terms by the government
that chewing gum requires a permit (and registration), and on the
other hand it is entirely legal and possible for an 18 year old to
avail himself of the services of any one of the few hundred legal
brothels located along the infamous Geylang district.
Singapore is one weird country. That thought ran through my mind as I
gazed upon the Sunday edition [20 June 2004}of the Straits Times.
I am still trying to come to grasp with the subtle logic behind the
mesh mash of policies implemented by the nanny state.On the one hand
we are told in no uncertain terms by the government that chewing gum
requires a permit (and registration), and on the other hand it is
entirely legal and possible for an 18 year old to avail himself of
the services of any one of the few hundred legal brothels located
along the infamous Geylang district.
What gives? Where is the logic? Lets put all that aside and naively
accept the official line towed by Singapore's law enforcement
officers, that basically it is impossible to control the oldest
profession in the world, so some control is better then no control in
the noble interest of the general public.
But wait a second here, there's more to this then meets the eye. Not
content with micro-managing the sex lives of the citizens,
Singapore's law enforcement officers have also declared that street
walking is outlawed. So whilst its perfectly legal to have a fling
with a prostitute in a Geylang brothel, its a NO No if the same lady
approaches you on a street outside the Brothel and invites you to
intercourse in any one of the readily available motels located in the
There is a hidden agenda in this mesh mash of haphazardly implemented
1) The first obvious economic effect of the mesh mash of convoluted
policies is that they have the net effect of creating a virtual
monopoly on the sex trade in Singapore. Now this is starting to look
vaguely familiar if we view the sex industry as simply another
Make no mistake there is huge money to be made in the gambling and
sex industry and it is small wonder that it has remained the oldest
profession in the world. And like any typical mafia boss, the powers
from the havens want a piece of the action. Usually with a normal
trade, the modus operandi is for the GLC/TLC to move in on the stakes
and "unlevel the playing field."
But this is a rather delicate situation...No, Mr Lee and Ms Ho will
not (and cannot) adopt the tried and proven formula: set-up another
GLC/TLC to corporatise the sex trade. That's really not in keeping
with the immaculately clean, virgin white uniform of the dominant
party. So how do you have your cake and eat it, without getting your
grubby fingers dirty?
Legalize the trade, and impose a tax on it. Make no mistake, the
government has a direct stake in the set-up. Of cause the actual
numbers are shrouded in secrecy but the amounts involved are
substantive. Each working girl in the legitimized brothels can charge
up to SGD150-SGD200 for 45 minutes of tender loving care. The figure
can go up to SGD300 if the customer happened to be a foreigner who
was not conversant with the house rates.
2) The flip side of the coin is that only ladies with permits are
allowed to work in the legal brothels. The Anti-Vice squad maintains
a daily log of each working girl as they have to log-in to their
place of work and register each customer they bed. So it is possible
to calculate right down to the dollar, the daily takings of each
The girls typically originate from either Malaysia and Thailand. Now
here's another mystery, why limit issue of permits to girls
originating from only these two countries?
Again the ultimate effect is to create barriers to entry for other
races (from eastern European countries and especially from Mainland
China). The Anti-Vice squad conduct nightly raids on illegal
streetwalkers (who also happen to be mainly China girls). The women
are often chased and physically beaten by Singapore Law Enforcement
officers, all in the noble name of cleaning of the streets. Never
mind the minor fact that their legitimate counter-part is selling the
very same product next door in a legal brothel.
In this respect we must really applaud Singapore's conscientious law
enforcement officers. So dedicated are these virtuous gentlemen to
their duties that they even saw it within their duties to avail
themselves of the services of the very victims they were targeting.
In the past years there have been several formal reports of law
enforcement officers who have performed above and beyond their call
of duty in this aspect.
So that then is how we end up with this unholy marriage of policies.
The merits of the venture are determined solely on corporate business
strategies. Moral values have no place and is rendered totally
irrelevant in the final analysis.
In this case the final victims are of cause the street walkers who
not only have to pay a King's Ransom in getting protection money from
their personal "Ma Fu" (the local equivalent of a pimp who is
supposed to look out for them and warn them of police raids). The
government owned media (Straits Times and Sunday Times) have also
been roped in to churn out bad publicity regarding female Chinese
migrants. Many of these women are here for legitimate factory jobs
but have been marginalized by local Singapore women who deem them as
To those of you who want to flame me because I am taking the side of
the China hookers, please remember that the sex trade is already
there and thriving in its legitimized form and any argument you wish
to address to me can also be addressed to our dear PAP government.
It is indeed a sad day when Singapore's Ruling Elite are reduced to
virtual pimps and living off the takings of the sex industry. My hats
of to you folks. That's the government that you elected.
Singapore bans `China mothers' from working
3 Dec 2003
SINGAPORE (AFP) - Chinese mothers accompanying their children to
study in Singapore will be barred from seeking employment during
their first year in the city-state, the Straits Times reported
Wang Yongli, an education counsellor with the Chinese embassy, was
quoted as saying that the Manpower Ministry informed officials "in
black and white" of the one-year ruling in October.
The Manpower Ministry could not be reached to confirm the ruling.
There are between 1,000 and 2,000 Chinese mothers in Singapore,
locally referred to as 'study mamas,' because their children are
studying at schools here.
Yang Mei, a 35-year-old Chinese divorcee who arrived in June with her
11-year-old daughter, said the new ruling will force many of her
compatriots in China to reconsider sending their children to
Singapore to study.
"I think many mothers in China will have to rethink their decisions
about coming here now that the ministry says that new arrivals can't
work in the first year," she said.
Mothers from China Face Harsh Rules in Singapore
Thu Sep 25, 8:09 AM ET
By Geraldine Chua
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Along the narrow corridors of Pearl Center, a busy
shopping complex in Singapore's Chinatown, women from China sit outside foot
reflexology shops and massage parlors, beckoning customers to come in.
It's a scene Singapore's authorities are trying to contain, and taking steps to
Many of the women brought their children to Singapore for a better education,
hoping to land jobs to pay the rent and be with them.
But they've come at a hard time.
Singapore is experiencing its worst job market in 17 years. Often lacking
English language skills that unlock jobs here, many of the women are forced into
the massage business, where "special" sexual services are sometimes
just a few dollars away.
"Before I came here, people only showed me pretty pictures of
Singapore," said 38-year-old Wang Min. "But once you're here, not
everything is so perfect."
Wang's story is typical of the women, known in the Mandarin dialect of Chinese
as "pei du ma mas" or "study mothers."
She left northeast China two years ago and headed to Singapore with her young
daughter, hoping to give her only child a good education. Armed with a business
degree from Shenyang University, she planned to land a decent job to pay her
But after months of looking, Wang could only find work as a foot reflexologist,
massaging feet for more than 10 hours a day, and complains of frequent
discrimination based on her mainland Chinese accent.
HARD LABOR, MENIAL JOBS
Others say the only work they can get is hard labor and menial jobs, and grumble
that Singaporeans generally think of them as prostitutes or "gold
Last month Singapore made the plight of Chinese mothers harder by clamping down
on those working in the massage industry, after reports they were providing
sexual favors for cash.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it is now more stringent in granting work
permits to Chinese mothers for some service industries, a step that caused about
100 of the women to lobby the Chinese Embassy last month to seek to overturn the
"The mothers of foreign students who are in Singapore can continue to apply
for work passes. However, based on anti-vice feedback, the ministry will be
stringent in granting work passes to certain occupations," said a MOM
spokeswoman, referring to masseuses and foot reflexologists.
Chinese mothers renewing their work permits will not be affected if they remain
with the same employer.
Many take on menial jobs such as food stall helpers or cleaners, which pay about
S$800 ($457) a month, but massage therapists can earn more than S$3,000 a month.
"It took me more than two months to find this job. Back in China, when I
was working in a government office, my hands used to be so smooth. See, I've got
corns on my fingers now," said Wang, who earns about S$1,500 a month.
In the last few years, Singapore, where 77 percent of the population is ethnic
Chinese, has become a popular destination for mainland students largely because
of the high standards of education in public schools.
There are an estimated 50,000 foreign students here although they come from a
wide range of countries.
MOM said figures for Chinese nationals working in Singapore were unavailable.
MASSAGE PARLORS HIT
Massage parlor owners such as Glen Tan are unhappy about the new law that makes
it tough to employ Chinese nationals.
"No matter what reason you give them, they (MOM) don't care. It's a
downright rejection as long as they are from China. And they would not provide
any reasons," said an exasperated Tan.
"Isn't it ridiculous that I can't get Chinese therapists when I'm doing
Chinese acupressure massage. When I put out an advertisement, not many
Singaporeans are interested."
Tan said that, although MOM taxed him S$240 a month for hiring Chinese workers,
he preferred Chinese nationals to locals. "These Chinese therapists are
skilled and generally have better work attitudes than Singaporeans," he
Most Chinese mothers feel that, while there are cases of Chinese women providing
sex, the majority do not and it's unfair to label all Chinese women as
"I'm a decent women. I only work and go home to my daughter," said
Still, the negative stereotype appears to linger among local residents.
"You can see them everywhere in Chinatown. It's so obvious, they're all
sitting around, scantily clad," said Peter Lim, 52, who works in an
electronics shop in the area. ($1=1.75 Singapore Dollar)-----Original Message-----
From: Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com [mailto:Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of Robert HO
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Subject: [Sg_Review] Keeping Singapore safe for whose families?
Yawning Bread. June 2006
Keeping Singapore safe for families
There is a 14-year-old boy and his 11-year-old sister who do not know that they'll be without a father starting next week. Their father -- let's call him Chester -- expects to be sent to jail for 6 to 8 months.
The two kids don't really have a mother. She walked out of the family years ago and Chester has largely raised his children single-handedly with a bit of help from his mother and sister.
"How are your kids doing in school?" I asked Chester.
"The boy's OK," he said, "but the girl - she needs pushing. If you don't push her, she won't do anything."
"Who's going to look after them when you're away?"
"My sister will help out."
But he hasn't told his family yet.
He seemed to have made some arrangements with a friend to provide for the family financially, but I didn't enquire about the details or whether it would be sufficient. My mind was wrapped around the risk that the kids would suffer emotionally and be prey to bad influences.
He got out of it somehow and unless he told you, you'd never guess he was ever the gangster type. He's mild-mannered and quick at witty repartee, yet comes across as a lot more mature and emotionally well-adjusted than the company he keeps.
But the fact remains that without academic qualifications, it's a struggle earning a living in Singapore. And when one is stuck in low-paying jobs with a family to support, the temptation to supplement one's income with lucrative side-businesses is compelling.
What does one do when one has children to support and no wife to help out? You salute the man for never abandoning his kids, but you also have to understand that there aren't a lot of choices when it comes to making some extra money.
* * * * *
One of those lucrative businesses has been in the news lately. 30-year-old Yu Hongjin was found murdered on 18 June 2006 in a massage parlour. Beside her lay a man who was injured and bleeding but who has been charged with her murder.
Yu came to Singapore from China about 4 years ago as a "study mama". In Singapore-speak, that's a mother who accompanies her child here, in order to enroll the child in a Singapore school. She gets a long-stay permit, but isn't permitted to work for the first 12 months. Even after that, there are restrictions to what employment she can take up. According to newspaper reports, there are hardly any jobs that pay enough to support mother and child, let alone pay the school fees. Hardly any legitimate jobs, that is.
But there is a huge industry that sucks up the pool of "study mamas": massage and foot reflexology. Not only is there seldom any hard distinction between the two, they often lead to sexual services as well.
These are jobs that very few Singaporeans would do, yet there is great demand for such services. In fact, though our mainstream press doesn't speculate on this, I have a strong suspicion that the main motivation for these families coming to Singapore isn't a better education for the child, but a better income for the family. The child is enrolled in a Singapore school for the purpose of getting a long-stay visa for the mother.
However, since such businesses must operate in legal shadows, Singaporeans are needed as frontmen to register the businesses, sign the tenancy agreements, maybe even to canvass for customers (i.e. pimping). In return they get a cut from the income generated.
Moreover, the market demands younger, slimmer women than mothers of 10-year-olds, so there is pressure to hire other women from China, who aren't here as "study mamas". Some of them may be here on "social visit" (tourist) visas; others may be overstayers -- in other words, illegal immigrants.
How involved in the day-to-day running of the operations the Singaporean frontmen are varies a great deal from one business to another, but the general principle is that they take their share of the profits in return for risk.
Chester got caught for having one such illegal China girl under his wing. He claims she duped him about her true status using false documents, but to be honest (and even though he's my friend), I don't how if he had some suspicion yet chose to overlook it.
(Just in case you're wondering, no, he's not involved in that particular case with the murder.)
The long and short of it is that there is no escaping jail, and for his son and daughter, there's going to be emotional trauma, social stigma and maybe even financial distress.
* * * * *
There are two aspects of the "China girl" industry: sexual services and overstaying.
Generally, our government has been rather tolerant about sex-related industries unless bars and massage parlours begin to colonise districts such as Joo Chiat where the upper middle-class have purchased expensive properties. Then the hue and cry about keeping these districts "safe for families" tend to become irresistible.
But what this story tells you is that even pimps and their girls have families, and very often, the adults do what they do because they have no other way of providing for their loved ones. It's a common danger that we often fall into, to see the world from a bourgeois viewpoint and to see the bourgeois interest as the only one worth protecting. We use the instruments of the state to protect property values more than we think about providing opportunities to those excluded from our paper-qualification class system.
Keep Singapore safe for raising children, goes the cry. But whose children? Sweep away the low life, goes another cry. And let their children starve?
What is "safe" for one family is unsafe for another.
The other aspect is that of controlling illegal immigration. I can understand that Singapore cannot be a free-for-all; we'd be swamped in no time. The solution, as practised quite smoothly, is a liberal work permit regime. This is the case for domestic maids, construction workers and other fields, wherever there is a shortage of domestic labour, though having said that, our regulations are often so biased in favour of employers (the bourgeoisie again) that too many of them get away with unconscionable treatment of their employees .
But when it comes to foreigners providing sexual services, there is no work permit scheme, even though the demand is most definitely there.
Why not? The only difference from other sectors seems to be sex.
Shouldn't we ask ourselves, what is so horrible about sex? Are we trying to impose sectarian religious morality through the instruments of a secular state?
We have, virtually, a blanket ban against the provision of sexual services by foreigners. Yet, since the demand for sex is huge, the industry continues, even though every step of it is illicit. Women break their "study mama" conditions. Other women overstay because there isn't a chance in hell of getting a work permit for providing "massage" and erotic services. The pimps are considered accessories to prostitution or guilty of harbouring illegal aliens. Landlords and secret society gangsters have all the more reason to extort from the weak.
Why can't we have a more enlightened system? Why so dogmatic?
Why do we create conditions where 14-year-olds and 11-year-olds are left parentless and put at risk of dropping out of school, perpetuating the cycle of exclusion?
Some will no doubt wish to say fathers shouldn't set such bad examples for their kids by being involved in sex businesses. Those dads only have themselves to blame.
To them, I'd say: Don't. Don't mount your high horse until you have a solution for men like Chester to earn a decent wage. Chester, for example, has been nothing but a devoted father.
Do you care more for the dogma of "morality" or for precious lives? I have no patience for people who see the world in black and white.
© Yawning Bread