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Friday, January 11, 2013

AdilanClub: Girl, 14, sold sex for drinks

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SINGAPORE - She was only 14, but when a friend asked if she would entertain a man for cash, the teen jumped at the chance.

Sex wasn't new to her as she had two boyfriends at the time, but the idea of earning money by selling her body was.

Dr Carol Balhetchet, youth services director of the Singapore Children's Society, told The New Paper about the case.

An expert in the field of teenage sex and pregnancy, Dr Balhetchet said the girl used the $80 she got on dinner and drinks at a nightclub. She was already in the habit of visiting pubs and clubs.

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The teen was one of five cases she encountered last year in which an underaged girl had engaged in commercial sex.

The topic of young girls offering commercial sex was in the news after Tang Boon Thiew pleaded guilty last Thursday to running an Internet prostitution ring.

The youngest in his stable was under 18 then and 51 men were later charged with having commercial sex with an underage girl.

In all, Tang managed 17 girls offering sex. Seven were aged 22 and under.

Tang, who faced a slew of charges, including living on the earnings of prostitutes, didn't need a lot of time to find the girls.

They replied to postings on the Internet and newspaper advertisements. He recruited the seven girls between June and October 2011.

Dr Balhetchet said the number of young girls engaging in commercial sex she has had to counsel has been growing.

She added: "We live in a materialistic world... children grow up getting whatever they want. When parents can't afford to give it to them, children need to find other ways to get it."

Boys join people who get them illegal jobs selling contraband cigarettes or become runners for loansharks. Girls go on the Internet and offer sex or work for pimps.

The problem is not limited to Singapore.

Internet portals are rife with sex ads.

A 22-year-old on Craiglist "with a warm mouth" advertises herself as providing fellatio to "guys who drive".

"It will not be free," her advertisement adds.

On Locanto, "Michelle," an 18-year-old student, says she is lonely and asks men how big their private parts are - "no strings attached".

Another "sweet 18" advertises that she is "looking for a sugar daddy".

Some even have their own websites.

On a blog entitled "Singapore Companion Model Escort," a 22-year-old female who describes herself as "the first choice for all VIPs businessman" charges $750 per hour.

Easy money is what draws girls to the industry, said Mrs Rachel Lee, assistant director of the Fei Yue Family Service Centres, who sees a handful of such cases each year.

They usually involve girls about 20 years old, she said.

Some escort agencies can appear "healthy", as the girls purportedly accompanies the men for shopping or a meal.

"But when material temptations like a handbag get involved, girls who aren't clear about their boundaries may be easily persuaded."

Mr David Kan, executive director and senior counsellor at the Family Life Centre, said a basic need to gain recognition could draw young girls to the industry.

"There could be inadequate attention from family and friends, and the industry becomes an avenue to be recognised," he said.

Such girls may not necessarily come from lower-income families, he added.

"Emotional security is non-materialistic, something financially comfortable families can fail to give."

Beyond parental control

The 14-year-old's parents had taken her to court to apply for a Beyond Parental Control order as she often ran away from home, returning several times a week.

While her family was intact and she had an older brother, they did not communicate much, said Dr Balhetchet.

Mrs Lee cautioned against parents finding the topic of sex too "awkward" to discuss with their children.

"When parents don't know how to talk to their children about it, teens will find out themselves through their peers, or websites. They might get the wrong values," she said.

Dr Balhetchet advised mothers to be close to their daughters and allow their daughters to talk to them.

"These girls just want to be adults fast. They want to experience the world as an adult - carry expensive labels, have men treat them as ladies instead of little girls... When you get people paying attention to you, it validates who you are."


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