PROSTITUTION ON THE RISE IN SAMOA

Feature

By Mata’afa Keni Lesa APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Nov. 27, 2009) – An investigation by the Samoa Observer has revealed what most feared. There is a growing culture of prostitution fuelled by the influx of foreigners, tourists and local men who operate at ungodly hours in Samoa.

The investigation revealed there are several locations being used.

A second year student from the National University of Samoa’s (NUS) journalism course, Rosalia Setefano, who is a trainee reporter with the Samoa Observer, spent the week investigating the activities around the area where the new court house is being built.

During her investigation, Ms Setefano spoke with a woman who claimed to be the ‘mother’ of the girls involved.

She also spoke with several girls who told her why they are involved and what they do.

During her last visit to the site yesterday morning, she was attacked by one of the girls, who became suspicious about Ms Setefano’s line of questions.

She fainted and did not wake up until later at home.

On Monday, Anele (not her real name), the woman who claims to be the ‘mother,’ only talked to Ms Setefano when she was told the reporter was interested in becoming a prostitute.

"Why would you want to be involved?" Anele asked.

"I told her I did it before in American Samoa but I want to it again. I told her I worked for a restaurant in town," Ms Setefano said.

Anele said the rules are simple.

"You have to dress up like me," she said wearing a short mini-skirt and a skimpy top. "You can’t smile to any girl, you have to keep the men happy, keep your eyes on the men and potential customers. Act normal when you’re in a public place."

Anele said the average prize is $50 for a job.

"My kids know what to do, they know when the cops come around so you won’t see them," Anele said of the girls involved.

"We have lots of locations. Our main customers are Chinese, tourists and some local guys. You’ll never see us at these locations during the day."

Anele said work starts at 6pm. They finish in the early hours of the morning and would normally leave the locations before 5am.

"We have transport," she said. "Most of us sleep during the day. You’ll only see them at night. That’s when we get our clients."

At 6.47pm on Wednesday night, a girl who said her name was Pola arrived at one of the locations. The 23-year-old said she has been a prostitute "for ages." Asked how long, she did not say.

"This is the only job I can do to get money from," she said.

"Dad has gone, Mom is on her own and I’m on my own too."

Pola said she’s been to different places all over Samoa "giving out good sex to anyone who wants it and can afford it."

She said she lost her passport so there’s nothing she can do.

"I don’t have a home, I got heaps of friends to stay with, plus I got money to pay for what I’ve used," she said. "Where I sleep depends on who my client is. I sleep all over the place."

At 7:03pm, Trixie (not her real name) came around.

"I found out this place from my friends," she said. "I sleep during the day and work at night."

Prostitution pays better money than an 8-5 job, she said.

"Every night, I get mad if I don’t get enough money," said Trixie. "I’m desperate for both money and sex. I don’t even care how much money each one pays me, at least I get money."

Trixie said she knows all the locations where girls are picked up.

"But I can’t tell you, you’ll find out when you’re used to it," she said.

Some of the best clients are tourists, she said.

"They are cool people, I love them."

Trixie said she doesn’t live at home. Her parents don’t want to know her any more.

"I just hang out with my friends," she said. "The job takes me to different places.

"Sometimes I take unwanted pregnancy pills or even other pills like skin tablets."

At 5am yesterday morning, three girls were spotted on the seawall.

One of them said to call her Ting.

"I call myself that because I like it and they like it too," she said. Asked if she wasn’t scared of being infected with STIs not to mention HIV/Aids, she said: "I can .… anybody I want, even you. I’m from the street and I’m an old hand of this game. How about you?"

Ting said she likes any man.

"Don’t ever think that these Chinese men are paying us for fun," she said. "We get to business with them after we drink and we get drunk."

Ting said she spends her money on clothes.

"I work for one man just for only 30 minutes," she said.

Asked where her family is, she said: "Mom and Dad I know they are still alive but I don’t give a damn because I’m alright."

Ting said she uses "condoms sometimes but if I run out then I just enjoy myself freely."

As Ting was talking, one of the girls who recognized Ms Setefano from Wednesday night, asked: "Are you the one who was here yesterday?"

Told yes, she lashed out; "Are you investigating something? Are you undercover?"

She punched Ms Setefano. A relative she had travelled to Mulinu’u with helped take her home.

Yesterday, three carpenters working on the Ministry of Justice’s new complex at Mulinu’u told the Samoa Observer it was not unusual to see girls hanging around the place.

There are about eight of them, one carpenter said.

"They come and stand at the back of the new building and call the workers to come," he said.

One worker said they heard these ladies are getting paid but not sure how much.

"It’s not the workers who want them, the ladies want the workers," one man said.

The men told of a sandy spot at the back of the building where it’s most popular.

"They are like devils at night, they come and stand at the back and call the workers," one worker said laughing.

They said most days, the girls leave at about 6am.

Repeated attempts to obtain a comment from the Police were unsuccessful yesterday.

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