Ouh! Finally. I managed to talk to the minister. And this part will be the end of my Pondan story in Kampung Air. Enjoy, guys! Happy Mother’s Day! Can’t type much. Its mother’s day and not many of us in the office. I still have a few stories for tomorrow’s paper.
PROSTITUTION. The world’s oldest profession.
But being one of the most senior ‘professions’, it is still illegal in Malaysia, including transsexual prostitution. Yet, in some ways or another, it exist everywhere. And Sabah is no exception.
Each night, one will not fail to see transvestites wearing the most skimpiest attire, waiting patiently in front of the shop lots in Kampung Air, trying their luck on men who prefers their kind of services. They come in many sizes, many backgrounds, be it locals or foreigners.
To begin with, they are not real women, but somehow, the demands never stop. In some countries, prostitution becomes one of the main attraction. So are we going to do the same for Sabah? Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun strongly disagree with the thought.
“Sabah is definitely not a destination for tourists who come looking for sex.
We do not need sexual image to be well known … in fact, it would tarnish our tourism industry. This is an ill-culture from outside and it is attacking our tourism spot.
“Our initial target was to promote Kampung Air as a night market and grocery stores, not a spot for those looking for sexual pleasures!” Masidi said the transsexual prostitution is another activity that was similar to the ‘China Doll’ activities which hit Sabah few years ago.
China doll is a name given to China national girls who offer sex to earn their living. Often, they are caught abusing their visitor’s passes to gain entry into the State and later work as prostitutes.
Two years back, Masidi recalled that many of these China dolls were picked up from saloons, karaokes, night spots and reflexology centres.
“Working in these places was just a cover-up to their real activity, which is prostitution.
“It is such a shame especially as we are in a Country which is rich of tradition and politeness. We strongly hold to our own religion and beliefs. If Thailand is famous with their sexual-related attractions, we are totally the opposite,” said Masidi.
He said prostitution was not always legal in Thailand. Prostitution in Thailand was illegal in 1960, when a law was passed under pressure by the United Nations. But, the prohibition is seldom enforced. So instead, the government has instituted a system of monitoring sex workers in order to prevent their mistreatment.
This clearly shows that Thailand is not lack of law against prostitution, but it was not fully implemented. Without a legal precedent, other police officers will rarely agree to arrest someone charged for prostitution.
“On actions taken to rid China dolls from Sabah, we will do the same effort to clean up transsexual prostitutes in Kampung Air, or any other places for that matter. The foreigners will be deported to the countries of origin, and make sure they get the message that their services are not needed here,¨ he stressed.
And to show that he is a man of his words, Masidi gave the assurance that he would be discussing the matter further with the enforcements as well as relevant departments to ensure measures are immediately taken before the State’s good name is tarnished.
But of course, tackling prostitution is not exactly an easy job. Under Section 372 (1) (d) of the Penal Code, those found involved in vice can be jail up to 15 years, and whipped, and fined, if found guilty. Still, the heavy penalties does not deter them from going to the streets to offer sex services. They are still around, whether openly or underground, because the demands never stop.
“Transsexual prostitution, is however, a new kind of parasite in Sabah,¨ Masidi noted, stressing immediate measures must be taken before it is too late.
Twenty-year-old Ginie, a transsexual prostitute from the Philippines entered the State with his social pass, just like any other hopefuls who thought life would be much easier here. He disclosed there is a market for their kind of services, so why stop when the money keeps coming in.
“I will leave Sabah before my visit pass expires, stay in my hometown in Philippines for a few months, then come back here to earn a living … the ‘pay’ is lucrative, it puts food on our table, and it is an easy job, so why stop?¨ he said.
Tyna, a 21-year-old diploma holder, turned to transsexual prostitution after being rejected for ‘real job’, as he puts it.
“I have applied many jobs, but because I am a little bit softy, I become the laughing stock among my colleagues. Basically, it is not that I do not have the talent or the brains, it is the people, who call themselves ‘straight’ out there who are belittling us … we are earning a living like anybody else, so why look down on us.
“Now when we cannot make ends meet, we have no other way but to turn to sex work. That seems to be our only hope to earn a living, and still we are seen as trouble-makers, nuisance … but do they realise who started it all? Who should take the blame? Are we to be blamed?¨ asked Tyna.
Tyna stressed that he still have some dignity left, and hope the public would respect them.
“Respect is earned, so if you want to be respected, you must learn to respect others first,¨ said Tyna, who claims that he used to be molested, especially after undergoing breast injections long ago.
Since transvestites or ‘pondan hits the State like a new trend, the relevant authorities are pushed to study the current situation to find the best solutions to overcome it.
Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister, Datuk Azizah Datuk Seri Panglima Mohd Dun, said they would be talking to their counterparts in other departments as well as City Hall to find ways to settle the matter.
“Although it is against the law, we must also look at the other side of the coin as these people claims that they are women trapped in a man’s body … we must respect their thoughts.
“But having said that, we need to do a thorough study and carry out investigation on the how far are they involved in sex work, especially those educated transvestites who are ‘trading’ in Kampung Air and Asia city,” she said.
Stressing that it was important that the society are made aware of the problem so that they could join hands and ensure best solutions are taken.
Azizah also said it is important to help the younger generation who are facing identity crisis and having problem about understanding their own gender.
“These group of people will need greater attention, motivation and also behaviour modification … they will have to see experts, or psychiatrist, for that matter.
“We will have to set up professional groups to do their studies so that they would be able to get a collective result. We fear, if this is not overcome soon, it would lead to more serious problems such as spread of sexually transmitted diseases or AIDS due to unsafe sex,¨ she said.
Demands. Supplies. Unsafe sex. Weird pleasures. Sexual disorders. Those are just a few unanswered facts of life. But some things remain unchanged; where there is demand, there is supply.
We must stop pointing fingers. Instead of blaming one another, we should unite and find a solution to the existing problem before it gets worst.
It is time to open up. Embrace change. Start respecting. Only then can we make this world a better place to live in.