Response needed to sex industry in Tonga

09/06/2010 15:47

The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) is calling for a strong response to a woman facing charges in Tonga this week charged with sex trafficking, running a brothel and trading in prostitution. The trafficking concerned two Chinese women – aged 29 and 33 years – who were told that they would work in a hotel, but when they arrived they were forced into prostitution.

Director of the WCCC, Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-likiliki said, “We feel for the women who were brought here under false pretences and placed in a very dangerous situation. With no passports or work, they felt that they did not have the right to report what is very obviously a serious crime. Male demand for a supply of women and children is the root cause for prostitution and trafficking.  Gender inequality, globalisation and poverty, racisim, migration and the collapse of women's economic stability are global factors which create the conditions in which women are driven into the sex industry"

The majority of trafficked persons are women and girls.  Mulitple forms of discrimination and conditions of disadvantage contribute to the vulnerability of women and girls being driven into prostitution.

The Crisis Centre is gravely concerned for all involved in the crime, but believes it is time that the Kingdom also opened its eyes about the real situation of prostitution in Tonga. WCCC Director, Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-likiliki said “Prostitution certainly takes place in our community. It’s not fair to label it as a foreign import  - if we are not careful our our women and girls may also be trafficked elswhere and become victims of violent sexual abuse.”

Prostitution places women in a very vulnerable position – women often are subject to high levels of abuse from clients and brothel owners and the sex workers are exposed to long term health problems, such as a heightened risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. “It is time we started talking about how we can improve this situation. Service providers, Government institutions and the judiciary need to work together to develop a response that acknowledges that a sex industry exists in Tonga” said Guttenbeil Likiliki. Currently no legislation exists regarding specific anti-trafficking laws in Tonga.

The global sex industry is a massive profit making enterprise based on the marketing of women and girls. The sexual exploitation of women and gilrs in international prostitution and trafficking networks has become one of the major aspects of transnational organised crime. Unlike guns and crime women and children can be sold multiple ways for profit and the criminals receive less punishment and shorter sentences.
All service providers need to make it clear that there are places where sex workers can seek help – without judgement. Guttenbeil-Likiliki urges people to let others know that services are available “the WCCC works extensively with translators – the Crisis Centre is for all women and children who need help, regardless of their nationality, everyone is welcome.” The Crisis Centre has a 24-hour emergency line and conducts mobile pick-ups: call 222 40.