GEORGE TOWN: A research has claimed that the sex industry is thriving in Penang with at least 200 ‘hotspots’ offering sexual services.
Some of these places even have Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates so that they could be found easily, said researcher Todd Morrison of the Northern Network for Migration and Refugees (JUMP).
JUMP has described itself as a network of groups and individuals who are working towards an environment which is “respectful, supportive of the basic human rights of migrants and refugees in the northern region of Peninsular Malaysia”.
Morrison said the ‘hotspots’ were mostly massage parlours, hair salons, entertainment joints and hotels.
They would offer hourly rates and had been mentioned on online forums, he added.
Morrison found that 85% out of the 172 taxi drivers interviewed on the island said they had ferried passengers at least once to such places, stressing however that the taxi drivers had no involvement in the trade.
He conducted his research through fieldwork and information gathered over a period of two weeks in 2011.
“Our research shows that the sex industry is prevalent here and seems to be a thriving one.
“Two hours of Internet search will easily get you a list of places where sex services are offered here.
“Many men who went to such places have openly described their experiences via such forums,” he told reporters after his presentation at a seminar on ‘Sex Trafficking in Penang – What Can We Do About It?’ yesterday.
The seminar was organised by The Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign and aided by the Penang Women’s Development Corporation.
It was meant to raise public awareness on the existence of sex-trafficking activities in Penang and its links to the wider issues of human trafficking and modern day slavery.
Also present was state Youth and Sports, Women, Family and Community Development Committee chairman Chong Eng.
Morrison said people often did not seem to think about the well-being or basic human rights of sex-trafficking victims.
“When we hear a place has been raided and several people taken in on suspicion of prostitution, it doesn’t cross our mind that they could be victims of human trafficking.
“The law enforcers need to do more to help such victims.
“The fact is that current approaches by law enforcement agencies often criminalise the victims rather than the pimps or traffickers,” he said.