crisis in Asia has occurred after several decades of outstanding economic
performance. Annual GDP growth in the ASEAN-5 (Indonesia, Malaysia, the
Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) averaged close to eight percent over
the last decade. Indeed during the last 30 years proceeding the crisis per
capita income levels had increased tenfold in Korea, fivefold in Thailand,
and fourfold in Malaysia. Moreover, per capita income levels in Hong Kong
and Singapore now exceed some of those in industrial countries. Until the
current crisis, Asia attracted almost half of total capital inflows to
developing countries, nearly $100 billion in 1996. In the last decade, the
share of developing and emerging market economies of Asia in world exports
has nearly doubled to almost one fifth of the total.
record growth and strong trade performance is unprecedented, a remarkable
historical achievement. Moreover, Asia's success has also been good for
the rest of the world. The developing and emerging economies of Asia have
not just been major exporters; they have been an increasingly important
market for other countries' exports. For example, these countries bought
about 19 percent of US exports in 1996, up from 15 percent in 1990.
Likewise, the dynamism of these economies helped cushion the successive
downturns in industrial economies on the world economy during 1991-93. In
recent years, they have also been a source of attractive investment
returns. For all these reasons, the developing and emerging market
economies of Asia have been a major engine of growth in the world
economy." ("The Asian Crisis. A View from the IMF," address
by Stanley Fischer, First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF at the
Mid-Winter Conference of the Bankers' Association for Foreign Trade,
Washington, D.C., January 22, 1998)
your computer, and access your Internet server. Type in
“prostitution,” wait for some seconds, and countless web sites appear,
offering you a “sexual paradise” of options for getting advertisements
on how and where and even possibly who are available for paid sex, around
the world. And for an equivalent of a good lunch in a moderately priced
restaurant in Manila and possibly the equivalent of a deli or coffee shop
meal in New York, one can surf and access the numerous catalogues of
women, and not too rarely, children, who are available for your picking.
Type in “brides,” and you can again have a “delectable” choice of
women and girls ostensibly wanting to meet, and not too unlikely, marry
men from other cultures, from overseas. Female vital statistics, that are
vital to the trade and country of origin, that too is important and often
familiar, are made available to the prospective groom or in most instances
traffickers. You can begin making your choices long before you come and
visit the countries where you find the brothels, the nightclubs, or the
homes of these women and girls. Life has been made simpler and much more
enjoyable in the comfort of your home, office or even an airline seat.
This is one aspect of globalization.
if you’re not this type, you can surf cyberspace to examine stock
markets, to have a fairly good grasp of capital transfers, of businesses
plunging and surging, of investment opportunities and profit
possibilities. And trafficking of women and children is one big business.
It is said that pornography is one of the global profit-making industries,
and that the budget for the so-called “entertainment” industry in
Japan is equivalent to the military budget. Not so surprising if you
realize the fact that “entertainment” in the name of R&R and
militarism go together. This is another aspect of globalization
Keyword in the discussion of economic paradigms in many circles, from
governments to non-governmental organizations the “in” word.
does this mean in our ordinary lives?
this room as one big market, where all countries of the world can bring in
their products, can sell and exchange goods and cash, in a premise of
equal opportunities. We can probably even have fun comparing trading tips,
commercial successes, and product development strategies. That is assuming
we are all equal, and that the
opportunities are able to be accessed by all and advantages and
disadvantages of the global market known to all the participants.
then examine the following components of a global market, which
essentially is about movements or mobility or transport of capital
are investments being placed? Who are investing? What businesses are
the few times I visited the US or Europe and even parts of Asia-Pacific, I
did not see many of the big-time Filipino businesses. Although Jollibee, a
Filipino Chinese-owned fast food corporation, has opened its first branch
in California. In the words of a manager of Jollibee during the
inauguration, Filipinos can now be proud that we have entered the global
market of fast food corporations, and emphasized that the services of that
branch will be "world-class." That’s one Jollibee, one
Filipino fledgling multinational overseas. Consider what we have back
home, in cities as well as industrializing towns including some sleepy
districts outside the main cities of the three major islands of the
country‑Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Shakeys, Kenny
Rogers, and now the newest, Burger King. Add here in the realm of
technology and transport, Sony, Samsung, Goldstar, Philips, and Toyota,
Daewoo, Kia, BMW, Mercedes-Benz.
city centers. In Manila, recruitment agencies proliferate side by side
with karaoke bars, nightclubs, discos, hotels, motels, shopping malls, in
the areas which used to traditionally be the site of old-style Filipino
houses of the old gentry, fancy restaurants and serene neighborhoods. In
many of these recruitment agencies fancily called, in some instances,
cultural entertainment incorporated, or professional promotions limited.
In those services or “entertainment” establishments, women and mostly
young women, are either queuing up or staffing the premises. But
recruitment also happens invisibly and informally in barrios or villages,
by neighbors, friends, clan members, family relations, and even teachers
and other professionals serve as conduits for local and overseas
shopping malls in Manila and elsewhere horrified a relation of mine after
being out of the country for more than a decade "they were so huge,
gigantic is the word I used, and so “first world.” In fact he said
that these malls are even much more “modern” than the usual malls in
many parts of the US. Enter the shops--Gucci, Christian Dior, Adidas,
Nike, Body Shop, Revlon, Puma, Benetton, Esprit, Doc Martens, YSL, Marks
& Spencers, etc. Yet, I have yet to find a Filipino multi-national
corporation‑assuming we have one‑in some world capital
airports, or even other Asian names, like Sundarban, or Salma’s
Boutique, in the way that these other brands I mentioned above, are part
of cityscapes, airports, shops, malls, tourist sites, and neighborhoods.
In many of these shops, except in Sundarban Hotel, women -- young fancily
dressed young women--are the staff, charming customers as they have been
trained to do by the management.
currency crisis is beginning to change all this. In Indonesia, an
estimated half of its 200 million people will not be able to eat by the
end of 1998; unemployment had doubled in Thailand, tripled in South Korea
at a daily rate of 7,000 per day, and Malaysia (Asia Focus, Reuters,
July 7, 1998). In the Philippines, unemployment rate is galloping to a
whooping 4 million and inflation is officially pegged at over ten percent.
The relentless flight of Western capital has created this maddening
scenario of poverty and violence. The International Monetary Fund (IMF)--the
global institution which made these economies dependent on foreign capital
and created the foreign debt, ironically pointed out, “These governments
were overwhelmed by the inflow of foreign capital and by economic success
and they did not have strong structural protection for the economy. So you
essentially have a big bubble which just burst.” (Ibid.) Such a blaming
statement from one of the culprits that blew into this big bubble!
people Where are they going‑being sent? Who is facilitating this
human movement? What kinds of jobs do they get?
presupposes that the market operates from similar, if not related
principles, of migration or mobility. However, the operational reality is
that national economies are dissimilar, in fact, unequal and developing in
uneven stages that are specifically contextualized in different cultures.
In a geopolitical context, nations and states are unequal, and therefore
the political and economic policies, as well as responses to the global
market, are different, and in many cases proceeding from this given
inequality of nations in the global community.
case of Flor Contemplacion and Sarah Balabagan, two domestic helpers
employed in Middle Eastern households, one dead, the other repatriated,
are a classic cases where the Philippine government was strong
internally-driven and externally pressured not
to act immediately to protect its citizens. There was unequivocal
admission that to act or protest against the degrading treatment of these
women would jeopardize the diplomatic ties between the countries, and in a
kind of a threat, the possible loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in
the Middle East.
has been said that one nation’s development may be another or other
basis of relative socioeconomic mobility of some female populations in the
world has been on the exploitation of other women, especially migrant
women. As women in some parts of the world get educated, and become
socially and economically independent, they can afford domestic helpers,
amahs, servants; thus freeing them from the traditional constraints of the
gendered division of labor, unfortunately, transposing the burden from
them to other women.
the households are other forms of female subordination in transnational
factories. Women workers are vulnerable to sexual abuses ranging from
harassment to rape. The working conditions are poor, and not conducive to
productivity, much less to the workers’ well being. Improving working
condition requires a shift of capital budget to welfare, taking away
profits from capitalist owners. Consider these examples (Matsui, 1997):
Zhili toy factory for the brand name Chicco--87 workers killed, 47 injured
in a fire; no alarms, sprinklers, unqualified electricians employed; steel
bars and locked doors prevented workers mostly young women from escaping;
no compensation from the company; M-B Sales, supplier of toys to
McDonald’s had 23 workers in a Zhuhai factory hospitalized due to
benzene poisoning in January 1992; the death toll in industrial accidents
in China rose to 20,000 in 1994 alone.
KeyHinge Toys, a Hong Kong-owned company producing giveaway toys for
McDonald’s. Over 1000 workers, 90 percent young women, struggling for
minimum wage, legal working hours, overtime pay, health and safety
measures, right to organize; hundreds were dismissed. In 1997, some 220
workers got ill due to acetone poisoning.
Kader Toy Factory‑a fire killed 189 workers, 469 injured; Eden
Factory, a European joint venture producing Mickey Mouse toys for
Disneyland, severely maltreats women and child workers.
the list goes on and on.
Asian economies continue to reel from the impact of the crisis, billed by
some as more social than economic, lay-offs and retrenchments threaten
migrant worker populations. On the other hand, local unemployment has
created a heyday for those engaged in the continued human smuggling across
borders even as repatriation of foreign workers is the order of the day.
In Malaysia alone, undocumented migrants doubled in the first two months
of 1998, compared with 1997, while nearly a million are in Thailand, which
has announced the repatriation of 300,000 overseas contract workers mostly
from Myanmar. Malaysian-based overseas contract workers are dominantly in
the manufacturing and service sectors that includes 12 percent in domestic
service, mostly women. Experts predict that the repatriation to be
undertaken by the Thai authorities will affect the local agricultural
sector as most of the migrants work in this economic area. Some 100,000
Filipinos are to be sent home from Sabah, among the other hundreds of
thousands in other countries in the region. (IOM
News Release No. 805, June 6, 1998, Geneva)
a situation creates the push-and-pull tension that affects not just
national economies, but millions of households and communities. While
local populations are trying to get out in the hope of some better life
abroad, overseas workers are being sent home in droves, and they are lucky
if there are jobs waiting for them in their homelands. There is no better
fuel than these for greater dislocations of populations, increased
violence and crimes, and exploitative mechanisms and processes
particularly for those who have less in resources and more
responsibilities to bear, the women and children. Reports of more than
1,000 people who died in riots in Jakarta and the sexual violence against
women and children, workers are on the warpath in Seoul, to mention a few
examples that are threatening the region’s stability. It is chilling to
imagine other scenarios.
may wish to connect the above situations mainly to the currency crisis,
but it is important to emphasize that the crisis is a result of the
globalization of the economy and the interplay of social, political and
cultural domination of a group of countries over others.
in and Usage of information and communications technologies‑What
kind of information is being generated? Who is generating the information
and for what purposes? Who benefits? Who or what are the objects in the
exchange or flow of information and communications?
development and use of the Internet has created near instantaneous global
communications and facilitated the flow of information. However, this
technology also facilitates the exchange of information for the buying and
selling of women and children in prostitution, pornography and mail-order
brides, and for the global linkup of trafficking syndicates and
transnational financial institutions, such as Visa Card and
development of computers and the Internet have been premised on the need
to develop further usage of the microchip industry; and the development of
cyberspace has more to do with products that developed countries could
sell, and less on information sharing. The fight for copyright laws and
the strict application of such is revealing of who controls the
information highway, and the market which has been heavily targeted in
many Asian or South countries.
Impact of Globalization
feminization of migration. The bulk of migrants from sending countries are
women from so-called developing countries, who work mostly in low-waged,
badly-conditioned factories and sweat shops, while immigration policies in
receiving countries, particularly in rich developed societies, are
becoming stricter, and undocumented migrants are especially vulnerable to
racism in countries with high migrant communities, or with different
indigenous or tribal populations. In many cases, racism takes form in
violent attacks against women and children, who are weak and unable to
fight back, and are symbols of masculine possessions, wards of men. The
most recent case in Indonesia, where women and children were brutally
attacked, abused and raped happened in a context when the entire region is
experiencing severe economic problems due to the currency crisis.
of essential social services and cutbacks in national budget for social
services. In Manila, the hospital staff, including medical professionals,
has opposed the planned privatization of two public health institutions,
the Lung Center and the Kidney Center. The employees were not assured of
their jobs in the privatized milieu of the centers. More than a month ago,
fire gutted the two buildings, demolishing nearly all facilities and
equipment and killing some 25 intensive care unit patients. Rumors have it
that the fire was premeditated to provide a reason not to rehabilitate the
health institutions and stop the opposition.
Rights: Jeopardized by Globalization. If there is any human right that
captures the gravity of the potentially strategic mass impact of
globalization, that is the right to life.
farmlands are converted to factories, housing estates, and industrial
complexes. Golf courses push away populations into congested cities where
housing facilities for the poor are barely fit for human habitation, if
not completely inaccessible. Jobs are scarce except those where women and
children are either the lowly paid staff or themselves the commodity.
Crime rates are high, especially crimes against women and children and
poor people. Subsistence lands are converted into cash crop farming, thus
depriving populations of relatively simpler access to subsistence
food/crops; while governments are drawing up policies on food security and
sustainable development, phrases which have become normalized in the
language of national development plans. Peoples all around the region are
either getting ill due to malnutrition or actually dying of starvation due
to the loss of farmlands, drought, famine, and now, the popular El Nińo
phenomenon, and to wars or civil conflicts which make refugees of local
populations. Populations who dare stand to protest or defend their rights
are quelled often in violent ways. Populations have been imprisoned,
tortured, or have died from defending ancestral lands and agitating or
revolting for social reforms, particularly in the area of land reform.
therefore in the basic right to live are other rights:
right to food, shelter and education
right to a decent job that promotes human dignity
right to freedom of expression and association
right to be free from fear, harm and violence
right to health
right to a self-determined reproductive choice and sexuality
Rights and Women’s Rights: The Nexus of Gender and Sexuality
the area of women’s human rights in relation to globalization, the issue
of sexuality and how this is coerced, transported and then transformed to
serve sexually exploitative male oriented activities or
industries/businesses, has been generally left unexamined. Yet, it is an
area where a deeper examination is required because it is female sexuality
and the constant demolishing and re-construction of it which is in turn
made the merchandise in sexual exploitation, especially in prostitution
systems, including trafficking.
convergence of existing unbalanced gender relations, the globalization of
female sexuality as a commodity and the creation of a global market
through which the facilitation of goods and services are made are elements
in globalization that need our closer examination. As economic growth is
the fundamental aim of globalization, it is to be expected that profits in
terms of female sexuality as commodity is the ultimate goal.
speak of sexual perversions in prostitution and pornography. The question
to ask is, whose perversions? For whom? And for what? Who benefits or
profits? Others call these perversions "varieties." Who
doesn’t want varieties? But what are the premises of one’s access to a
variety of sexual encounters and “adventures.” Some say it’s just
evidence from social science shows that women and men behave differently
because social and cultural processes and contexts make them different.
Imagine a man in a room with a seductive looking female, and a women in a
room with a seductive male. Will there be a difference between the
reactions in these two nearly similar settings? What will be the
difference? It is not difficult to imagine what could happen.
imagine a world where there would be an equal number between females and
males in sexually exploitative situations. Men being dragged out of
brothels, and nightclubs, still half dressed or naked, forced to face the
camera and the media. Or, numerous men, maybe in hundreds being
transported across the borders in the South Asian region to be sold in
brothels, or to be kidnapped for illegal work servitude.
and pornography are sites of exploitation of female sexuality, whether
adult women or children. Traditional cultural and sexual practices are
broken down in prostitution and pornography, rendering women and children
much more vulnerable, and transforming the dynamics of sexual
relationships. In some societies, indigenous cultures contained certain
sexual practices, and taboos had developed as a response to the specific
situations of populations, and in the area of social reproduction, to
facilitate the productive and reproductive roles of women and men, and
version of a paper read at the Regional Meeting of the Coalition Against
Trafficking in Women (CATW), Organizing and Strategizing Against Sexual
Exploitation Regionally and Globally, at CIRDAP Auditorium, Dhaka,
Bangladesh, June 26-29, 1998.
F. Santos is the project director of the "pilot Project Against
Trafficking in Women" currently being implemented by the Philippine
Network Against Trafficking in Women. She was the Executive Director of
WEDPRO, Inc., a Women's NGO working with women in prostitution, since the
early 1990s to 1998. Ms. Santos co-founded several women's groups in the
Philippines and a pioneer in lesbian rights advocacy. She has authored and
edited several publications, and is a multi-awarded poet and essayist.