Words by Robert Webber
“Walking Street.” Wow, what an eye opener! Glitzy bars offer girls in lingerie and bikini-clad girls dance on tables; all have numbers pinned to what little clothing they have. It reminds me of a cattle sale yard. Girls are paraded around; you call out a number and they bring the girl to you.
There are more than 1,000 girls working in here and that’s just in one street!
There are also many “independent” girls sitting or standing on the footpaths, offering themselves for sale to anyone who takes notice. It is obvious that many of these girls are underage.
I visit one of the clubs and watch firsthand how the process goes: 20-30 girls at a time dance on stage, rotating with another group every 10 minutes or so. There is no shortage of girls. I identify a few who look underage. They say they are 18-19 years old. Typically girls lie about their ages so they can get jobs; the owners of these places can get into a lot of trouble if it can be proven that they knew a girl was underage when they employed her.
Regardless, few prosecutions happen.
I sit with Ana, who says she’s 18 years old, and ask her how many girls worked there. She tells me 250 in total. They must “churn” through a lot of girls because it’s hard to find anyone who has been working in this place for more than 6 months.
It’s so sad to see girls who in any other setting would be just normal high-school or college girls, trying to put on a smile as dirty old men sit and ogle them and purchase them like something off the shelf at a supermarket.
I go to a few other places and it’s all the same – girls in bikinis dancing on stages or tables, old men drinking and cuddling up to girls one-third of their age. To me they are all dirty men, but I guess people must think that of me as I sit here trying to take it all in and look inconspicuous.
I find an open bar that looks out over the street, which gives me a great vantage point to view what is going on. I settle in to view the evening and talk to people on the street to better understand who the players are and what roles they play.
It is 5am by the time I arrive back at the motel.
The battle is only lost if we give up fighting. Tomorrow, I pick up my sword and fight again….