Are the homeless in Singapore being raped?By secret-blog Feb 01, 2010 11:32PM UTC
Being deprived of a house does not just mean that one lacks a shelter from the storm, an abode of peace and a place to return to every night. A house does not just afford protection of items, of the self, of the physical. Rather, a house can be the very bedrock, upon which our dignity can be securely founded on.
I met Mike a few days ago. He is homeless and alcoholic. As I went around Singapore with him in the pursuit of governmental help for him (a journey which I am going to document later), he told me a few things about himself.
Being male, filthy and unshaven, I was taken aback by the incredulity of his story. Yet, it is a simple and straightforward one – when he sleeps, men unzip his trousers and perform oral sex on him. Perhaps, as he wondered, their throats feel “itchy” and they need his semen to soothe the itch.
If he wakes up to the act, the men offer to buy him a beer or two. If they do not make such an offer, Mike will initiate and ask them for some money, for want of support for his alcohol addiction. When he does so, he sometimes has to be the perfomer, and he told me that his knees hurt since some of the men want it fast… What takes place is a commercial transaction in which sexual pleasure and human dignity are traded, bartered and cheapened.
Did Mike have a choice? If he had a choice can this still be called rape? It might seem as though he has a choice since he could change rape into a commercial transaction. Perhaps what happens might be more accurately described as prostitution. But as I watched his eyes water, I doubt that he had a choice… merely the illusion of it. He was going to be raped anyway. Being drunk has enfeebled him, and he could have thought that he might as well gain something from it. Neither does the urges of his addiction help matters – dignity to him came to be valued less than a can of beer. In effect, Mike was not presented with choices, merely options. Cruel, cruel options.
I doubted his story at first, still being in disbelief that such a thing could happen to Singapore, and that the homeless could be regarded as sexually desirable. I changed this view only when both of us arrived at Clementi Mrt. Both of us went into the toilet. Mike stayed at the taps and I proceeded to use the urinals. When we came out, Mike mentioned to me that he recognized two people in the toilet just now. Then I recalled that one of the uncles beside me was looking at my direction, downwards, but I had dismissed it as accidental. I realised that those are the people who had solicited sex from him in the past; the people too poor to purchase the services of a male prostitute; the people exploiting the vulnerability of the homeless and addicted.
After I became convinced that Mike was telling the truth, I thought to myself: If a girl was raped, the Straits Times will be more than willing to cover the story. If a male, filthy, homeless, disregarded, disremembered and discounted for is raped, will the Straits Times cover the story? Will society be able to look at one of its members that it regards as its eyesore? Will the government finally be able to recognize that a flat is not just a roof, but so much, so much more?