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By Htet Khaung Lin YANGON (Myanmar Now) – Sixteen-year-old Wut Yee, left to fend for herself and her younger brother, was relieved when her exhausted mother finally came home after a week’s disappearance, but the feeling was short-lived.
Her mother had two devastating pieces of news for her: Since her husband remarried she had been working as a sex worker to make ends meet and she had just agreed to sell her daughter’s virginity to a businessman for $3,000.
They also say rehabilitation and support is more important than punitive measures.
“This issue is directly linked to poverty,” said Dr.
Sid Naing, country director for Marie Stopes International Myanmar, which runs health education and support programmes.
“Underage sex workers have existed for a while so it is important the authorities do not deny their existence. It is also equally important for society to not just criticise them, but to understand why it happened and help them get on the right path,” he added.
Many tend to work in brothels disguised as beauty salons or massage parlours, as they provide better protection than roaming the streets, she said.
“I’m also scared to ply the trade on the street,” said Poh Poh, a single mother who became a sex worker a year ago after separating from her husband.
“In most cases, they themselves see very little money because pimps and brokers usually take a large cut.” Some 0.45 percent of Myanmar women between 15 to 49 years of age - an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 - are engaged in paid sex work, according to government and United Nations figures released in 2013.