Saving ‘Suzy’ and other minors
Suzy,” 16, is reluctant to engage in a conversation, especially when the topic is her sexual experiences. I know where she is coming from. She is a prostituted child, and she feels discriminated against whenever she tells her story in public.
Her first “job” was as a “shine girl” at age 10. She did mostly hand jobs and oral sex on taxi drivers. She was paid the standard rate of P50-P80, which she used to buy tubes of Vulcaseal or rugby to sniff. When she was 11, her gay mama san brought her to far places, where she engaged in multiple sex practices. She had a child when she was 14. Her partner’s parents took the child, and he served his prison term.
These stories are common in the industry. The bugaw (middle man or woman) transacts with clients on rates, etc. Because Suzy came from a broken home, these transactions filled the void in her. She had a taste of nice things, such as good food and visits to beach resorts. She remembers the bouncy bed she jumped on, to the delight of her male partner. But when he undressed in front of her, her heart nearly popped out because of her nervousness. If for her it was pure fun, for her male clients it was paid service.
At 13, Suzy made friends with a staff member of an NGO that ministered to young girls and their concerns. She was counseled thoroughly. She decided to go for a change and became the “voice” of minors vulnerable to contracting HIV-AIDS.
It’s not well-known, but there is such a thing as career layering in the sex trade. Being a “shine girl” is the first step; one then becomes a “freelancer,” and, finally, “establishment.” Rates for hand jobs with oral sex are from P20 to P30, with the bugaw equally getting his/her equal share. Rates for contact sex are from P1,000 to P1,500, with P500 going to the bugaw (or it could be equal sharing). Girls employed by massage parlors, clubs and bars are categorized “establishment.”
Although family is vital to a happy life, Suzy’s is largely incomplete. Her mother died young. She lives with her grandmother, an aunt and an uncle whose apathy to her advocacy she likens to being deaf. Her father occasionally visits her. He has a live-in partner my age, she says.
The lack of moral support drove Suzy to being an advocate for HIV-AIDS protection for minors. “This is much different from how I was. I now have a direction in life,” she says.
Suzy is doing a fine job as an advocate for minors, but she is unsure how far and how deeply she can convince her peers to protect themselves and avail themselves of healthcare. Prevention of sexual infections and diseases is now topmost in her mind and she has learned the fundamentals of using a condom. She confesses that most of her clients sneer at using a condom because, they say, it limits sexual satisfaction.
When Suzy came out in the open, there was only one thing in her mind: to help other minors. How can sexually active young girls be protected?
Suzy is an outstanding personality, and not too many can be like her. She deserves congratulations for becoming the voice of prostituted children. Yet we need to see things from the clinical perspective. Prostituted children can avail themselves of checkups, but they cannot qualify for laboratory tests for HIV-AIDS as they still need parental consent. If lab tests can be administered to sexually active minors like Suzy, the spread of HIV-AIDS among minors can be minimized. Free lab tests with no age restrictions should be administered, and parents should stop discriminating against their children when they come to know that their children are sexually active.
When children are at risk, society needs to listen when they cry out, “We need to be protected.”
Maria Congee Gomez ([email protected] gmail.com) is a part-time teacher.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.