28/04/08

The key to HIV prevention: chastity pants for masseuses

chastity.jpgA fashion designer turned massage parlour owner in Indonesia has come up with an inspired solution to the problem of unsafe sex: he’s padlocking his girls in to their trousers.

Paul Watson of the LA Times spoke to Franky Setiawan, owner of Doghado Massage Parlor, who came up with the chastity pants. Setiawan “says he came up with the idea when men “bombarded” his staff with demands for sex after local authorities shut down the town’s brothels. …”We had a hard time rejecting this kind of client because they try over and over and over again, persuading our workers with their dangerously sweet words,” Setiawan said.”

By way of explanation, we’re told: “In recent years, conservative Islamic values have gained influence in a society that has long enjoyed liberal freedoms, such as easy access to alcohol, gambling and the sex trade.” But the point is surely that conservative Islamic values HAVEN’T gained influence. Men still want to drink, gamble and buy sex. And if they can’t buy sex from willing sellers in a brothel, they’ll harass potentially less willing women in a massage parlour. This “bulldoze-a-brothel-and-turn-men-into-saints” approach has failed miserably in Indonesia for more than a decade now. Sexual services just spread to places where it is harder to provide decent prevention services (and leads to desperate measures like putting women’s fannies under lock and key). Before the crackdown on the sex trade started, virtually no sex workers in Indonesia were infected with HIV. Now, in several cities, one sex worker in every ten has the virus.

I say “potentially less willing”, because many of the women who provide massages in Indonesia’s thriving spa industry don’t want to supplement their income by selling sex. Though plenty do. When mapping the sex industry at the Indonesia’s statistics bureau, we used to joke that any massage parlour with the words “bersih” (clean) or “sehat” (healthy) in its name was almost certainly somewhere you could get extra services. Though my own regular haunt is called “Bersih dan Sehat”, and I’m not aware of any added extras, despite the absence of padlocks. The point is, though, that selling sex is not illegal in Indonesia, when it’s on a willing buyer, willing seller basis without an intermediary. (Pimping is illegal.) So perhaps Pak Setiawan should be offering his employees the choice of a padlock or a condom.

Hat tip to The Headmistress.

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This post was published on 28/04/08 in Good sex and bad, Pisani's picks, The sex trade.

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  1. Comment by MarinaM, 28/04/08, 12:02:

    Well, at least he’s trying to protect his girls 😉

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