Published on page A1 of the November 25, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
JABRIYA, Kuwait?The tales of Filipino women tell of their experience in prostitution dens in this Arab emirate are harrowing.
One, a 29-year-old, said she was ?used? more than 300 times during her 45-day captivity, Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Ricardo Endaya told the Inquirer. Two others similarly victimized?in their late 20s and early 30s?have become pregnant.
?Our objective is to bust this syndicate, which we believe is being masterminded by a Bangladeshi,? Endaya said, adding that the Philippine Embassy in Jabriya had raised the matter to the Kuwaiti government.
The embassy has rescued 22 Filipino women working here as domestics since it started a crackdown last October on prostitution dens run by the syndicate.
Some of those rescued are in their mid-40s; the youngest is in her late teens.
Endaya said embassy personnel initially thought the women had been infected with sexually transmitted diseases. ?But the embassy had them tested at a hospital and everybody came out clean,? he said.
The women are now recovering at the half-way home run by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration beside the embassy.
But according to Endaya, one had apparently developed something similar to the Stockholm syndrome?an emotional attachment to a captor developed by a hostage, as a result of continuous stress, dependence and a need to cooperate for survival?and escaped a few days after being rescued, reportedly to be with a client.
Almost every week, embassy agents assisted by Kuwaiti police conduct raids to rescue Filipino women in the prostitution dens located mainly in Kheitan.
Around 36 suspected clients of the dens, including young men aged 16 and 17, have been arrested.
The suspects are mostly Indians and Bangladeshis, and a handful of locals, who pay the syndicate two to five Kuwaiti dinars (P340 to P850) per woman, Endaya said.
He said there had been no report of Filipino men among the clients.
Five other Filipino women suspected of acting as pimps have also been arrested and are facing charges of white slavery, Endaya said. But one of them managed to catch a flight back to the Philippines.
Endaya said he was ?convinced? that many more Filipino domestics were being held by the syndicate.
?I think we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg. I hope other Filipino nationals who have knowledge of this syndicate would come forward soon,? the envoy said.
White slavery continues to victimize many Filipino, Indonesian and Sri Lankan women in Kuwait, which is home to 65,000 Filipino domestic workers.
Endaya said that the problem was uncovered three years ago and that the syndicate was thought to have been busted until new victims began to surface this year.
It is quite easy to lure unsuspecting women into the syndicate.
Earning a measly monthly salary of US$150 or 40 KD (or an average of P7,000) as domestic workers, the women are offered an undisclosed job where they would be paid from 150 to 400 KD.
A number accept the offer without knowing the nature of the job because it presents a means of escape from abusive employers.
According to investigators, the modus operandi involves having an Indonesian woman and another Filipino woman phone a would-be victim with a job offer.
The victim is picked up by a cab, usually driven by a Bangladeshi, who takes her to the desert to be raped then sells her to a prostitution den for 200-300 KD.
How the syndicate members get hold of the women?s mobile phone numbers is still being established by the embassy.
From the authorities? interviews with the victims, it was learned that the prostitution dens do not have clients during the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan.
Some Filipino women have learned to fight back, such as ?Christy,? the 17-year-old who was reported early in November to have been gang-raped by a Bangladeshi driver and his friends.
Per the account of Let Fernandez, a member of the embassy staff who is assigned to her case, Christy became determined to escape when the Indonesian woman who lured her from her regular job forced her to phone other Filipino domestics with the offer of a higher paying job.
The Indonesian had earlier told Christy that her job entailed having to go out at night to meet with customers. It was at that point that the teenager realized that she had been recruited into the flesh trade.
Fernandez quoted Christy as saying that she would rather die than victimize her compatriots.
?She couldn?t accept selling her body, and those of her fellow Filipino women,? Fernandez said.
She said Christy escaped by tying together several pieces of hijab (the traditional garment of an Arab woman) and using this ?rope? to climb out of the window of the room where she was being held.
But her ?rope? proved short, forcing Christy to jump two floors below.
?It was like Christy decided to kill herself rather than be used,? Fernandez said.
Christy required two operations for extensive back injuries and swollen feet.
She will undergo a medico-legal examination to determine if she was indeed raped after she has fully recovered from her injuries, Fernandez said.