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Hypocrisy, double standards and Lanka’s burgeoning spa industry

30 March 2024 12:21 am - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Yesterday, Police spokesman Nihal Thalduwa informed the media that in the police divisions of Negombo, Kochchikade and Seeduwa, police raided 53 spas. According to the spokesperson, 145 suspects including 137 women and eight men were taken into custody.
If this statement is correct, it would appear that many men do not frequent these establishments of alleged ill-fame. Only eight men were found in the 53 spas which were raided. It also makes the lords and ladies who run these establishments philanthropists for keeping over a hundred idle women on their payroll!
The police spokesman went on to add that raids were carried out on information  received from police intelligence reports.


These spas or wellness centres are found at almost every nook and cranny in cities around the country. In October last year our sister paper ‘The Sunday Times’ quoted the Presidential Secretariat Public Relations Director Thusith Halloluwa saying around 600,000 persons are either directly or indirectly employed in the spa industry. 
Very sultry advertisements offering the services of ‘cute and young girls’ appear in the public domain even today. Some of the adverts even offer private and hidden parking! In other words, we are offering our women and young girls on a platter to those in more privileged positions in society.
To cut a long story short, advertising prostitution publicly and unashamedly in our country has been continuing for some time. Of course under the guise of different terminology. More recently these adverts have become more blatant.
Give us a break. Who do the police think they are kidding?
In an earlier period of time or era, similar places of ill-repute were known as  ‘massage parlours’. And, even in those days, advertisements recruiting personnel to these ‘parlours’ were out there for all to see. 
One of the questions that could be justifiably raised is what made the police suddenly decide to spring into action at this late stage. As we mentioned, our sister paper provided details of the number of persons involved in the trade as far back as a year ago.
A more important question is one all of us Lankans and our political leadership- need to ask ourselves is WHY such large numbers of our women and girls are letting themselves be dragged into this trade? What makes them choose to become prostitutes?
Again the answer is crystal clear. During the time of our nearly three-decade war numerous women sold themselves to the occupants of the military camps which dotted the city. The economy was in the doldrums and women were forced to enter the profession as a means to provide food and education to their children. 
Today in the aftermath of the Covid-19 and economic meltdown, over five hundred thousand temporary workers have lost their jobs. The cost of living is way beyond the reach of large sections of the population.


The news agency Reuters, reporting data from the health ministry indicated the number of children grappling with various forms of under-nutrition in Sri Lanka increased for the first time in at least six years in 2022.
Over 43.4% of the country’s children under five years of age are suffering from nutrition problems, according to the report released in October, with 42.9% suffering from some form of under-nutrition. In turn it indicates that around 1.4 million children under the age of five registered with the Public Health Midwives fell under that category.
With normal sources of employment closed to them, mothers and young girls are thus being forced into the world’s oldest profession.
According to the organisation ‘Stand-up Movement Lanka (SUML), there has been a 30 per cent increase in prostitution in the last few months as women are forced to become sex workers. Many of the women said they were forced to enter the sex trade as they were struggling to pay off debts. 
The reality is that many of these women should be considered heroines for sacrificing their bodies to save their families.
Taking these women into custody and imprisoning them is akin to punishing the victims of poverty and deprivation rather than those who fatten themselves off human misery.


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  Comments - 3

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  • Sokrates Saturday, 30 March 2024 10:05 AM

    None of the women go to prison. The penalty under the Brothel Ordinance is Rs 500. However, it is finally time to abolish this obsolete Colonial Ordinance and create new rules. Prostitution must not be prohibited. However, all prostitutes should be registered with the Health Department. They must be obliged to have a monthly medical examination. This has to be checked by the health department and not by the police. Brothels are not allowed to employ women, but only rent out the rooms, including cleaning and changing bed linen and towels. The sale of drinks, including alcoholic ones, must be permitted. The women can negotiate their own payment for the johns. All sex workers would then be self-employed and would have to pay taxes accordingly, as is common in developed countries. Pimping must be severely punished, especially if violence is involved.

    Athula Ranassinghe Saturday, 30 March 2024 02:23 PM

    In the wake of economic and financial hardships, many people have lost their livelihood income resulting in women to turn into the oldest profession, mainly to feed their families. In short these women who have become destitute have now become prostitutes. This aspect appears to have escaped the attention of the rulers. Yesterday', the Department of Census and Statistics said that COL has sky-rocketed by by 144% due to inflation. What has the government remedial measures to curb this unhealthy economic environment.

    Suren Sarathkumara Monday, 01 April 2024 11:08 PM

    It is no secret that the owners of these spas are usually those who wield some sort of power - be they associates of politicians or politicians themselves. No regular citizen can run such an illegal business given the forces one may have to go under when engaged in such an uncouth profession. It is here the police lose their backbones to arrest the real culprits. The intelligence reports claimed to have indicated the existence of the spas -but did they tell the police who the owners of the spas were? Does it take an intelligence agency to bring forth the fact that the spas exist? Isn't it the exposure of the owners of the spas the intelligence agency should have done? If the police had a genuine intention to stop the malice, they would have taken a completely different approach. And that is why this whole exercise is a big sham.


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