PNG Sex Workers Call For Legalization, Decry Foreign Competition

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Asian workers reportedly threaten indigenous industry

By Gorethy Kenneth

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 18, 2015) – Prostitution in PNG is on the rise, especially in major centres and already there is a call for the industry to be legalised.

And sex workers in the nation’s capital, who have spoken to the Post-Courier, want the Government to recognise them, as they claim the Asian sex worker market is also increasing in PNG. It is "undercutting" their means of generating income and fending for themselves in the city, they claim.

The statistics of the industry are not known, especially in the NCD, but there are about 22 locations which they operate from in the city – men and women included.

In the other centres like Mount Hagen, East New Britain, Madang, New Ireland, Lae and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville where demand and statistics are known, they also operate on an ad hoc basis.

Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development Delilah Gore said yesterday PNG was full of Christian churches which would go against decriminalisation of prostitution but added that, like everyone else, sex workers belonged in a society and that the Government was working on a social protection law that would also cover them. She did not elaborate.

In Port Moresby, they are categorised as low-class, middle-class and high-class local sex workers and operate in locations including hotels and inns in the suburbs.

One leader of the high-class Papua New Guineans who helps these groups, not divulging too much information, told the Post-Courier that the industry was booming but faced a growing threat by the large numbers of Asian sex workers coming into the country.

"Of course, we have to take into account the Christian values and principles we live by in PNG but hey, we are growing and becoming an economic leader and more and more people are coming into PNG, even our very own Papua New Guineans are already into this market," she said (name withheld for security reasons).

"We have to face it and recognise these group as one of ours too.

"We will be liaising closely with the responsible authorities to see if we can have our say in our society because this is one part of the group that … you may not believe it, but we are elites and we serve others but in a way Papua New Guineans will see it as promiscuous.

"But they mean well, most fend for themselves and also serve those in need.

"Like the gays and the lesbians, this group also wants their say."

Two influential middle-class sex workers told the Post-Courier they were feeling threatened because most of their customers were being "hijacked by cheap Asian prostitutes" who are newcomers to PNG cities.

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