Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Latest Online Prostitution Scandal Isn't the First, and Certainly Won't Be the Last

According to media reports, several Singapore public servants are being probed for their alleged involvement in an online prostitution ring. One of them is the former principal of a prominent primary school, but he is believed to be just one among 80 men being questioned for their involvement the prostitution ring. Several other public servants from other government agencies are also believed to be involved in the investigations, amongst which at least one is believed to be a scholarship recipient and another a former police officer. Bankers, lawyers and other professionals from the private sector were also amongst those called in for questioning.

Apparently, women from countries like Thailand, China and South Korea were being offered on the website in question at a price range of SGD80 to about SGD300. Eastern European and Russian women were also available. Most of these women come into Singapore on short-term visas and the syndicates involved in the ring gets regular "batches" of girls.

Many Singaporeans have been stunned by the news, with parents fearing for the safety of their children and some calling for such individuals to be "sacked immediately". In response, Heng Swee Feat, Minister of Education, sent out an e-mail to school principles, reminding them that
the Ministry of Education "takes a serious view of the recent reports of educator misconduct". He added, '[t]here is a shared belief that educators are placed in a privileged position of trust and respect, and therefore have a special responsibility to uphold them.'

This latest news follows a report in December last year that an online prostitution ring that was operating out of a condominium in Bukit Panjang was busted, with 23 suspects were arrested. Indeed, websites advertising sexual services from women have proliferated in Singapore in recent years, and one internet forum even touts itself as "Singapore's Virtual Sex Hub".

Whether or not the public reaction to this incident is warranted, and whether or not the public figures should be forced to resign, such incidents are unlikely to go away. Singapore's decision to become an international gambling hub, together with its first-class connectivity and dependence on the tourism industry, means that the country is also poised to become a regional prostitution hub. The ease of human traffic into and from the country means that it is easy for foreign prostitutes to enter and leave the country, while Singapore's first class transportation and communications infrastructure makes it easy for pimps to discreetly market their girls to prospective customers grow and flourish in the city state.

The link between prostitution and gambling has been well studied. According to a study published in UNLV Gaming Research and Review Journal titled "The Relationship Between Gambling Behavior and Binge Drinking, Hard Drug Use, and Paying for Sex", casino patrons were 17% more likely than the average survey respondent to have paid for sex.

Another paper titled "Casinos, Crime and Community Costs" by Grinols and Mustard reports "significant casino-generated growth in adult entertainment, escort services, and related industries, which show significant increases measured by advertising or the number of listings in the yellow pages. Many law enforcement officials have testified that prostitution increased dramatically after casinos opened" It is also an open secret that many tourists who come to gamble also (discretely) request to be serviced by prostitutes.

Unfortunately, many men become morons when sexual temptation is dangled in front of them. Their brains switch off and they start thinking with their penises. Uncontrolled lust hijacks their rational capabilities and their actions come under the control of their sexual desires.

So don't be surprised if we see more of these incidents happening in the future. The casinos don't just destroy families via problem gambling - the associated side effects such as the proliferation of prostitution will also exact a significant toll on society.

Journalists Resource (Apr 28, 2011) "Young Adult Gambling Links to Drinking, Drugs, Prostitution"
Straits Times (Feb 15, 2012) "Heng Swee Keat reminds school heads to be role models"
Today (Feb 12, 2012) "Police investigate online vice ring"
Straits Times (Feb 12, 2012) "Public servants questioned in prostitution ring investigation" (Feb 12, 2012) 'Singapore public servants probed in sex scandal'

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