Malaysia is one of the most conservative countries in Southeast Asia. This is very overt when you wander around the cities and see most Malaysian wearing tudungs, or head scarves. However, student prostitution, even by the Government’s own admission, is rampant.
Prostitution by students occurs in many forms across the country. In truth, it has been happening for years. Even as far back as 2003, the Malaysian government set up a committee to monitor foreign students who could be tempted to enter the sex trade. This and other initiatives to curb the problem have had little impact, with student prostitution now a major underground industry involving both foreign and Malay students.
Local Malay girls who take up study in Kuala Lumpur usually come from “outstation” or towns outside Klang Valley, where the nation’s capital Kuala Lumpur is situated, and suddenly find themselves in the middle of a vibrant city after a sheltered life at home. They meet other outgoing people at the college they study at, and enjoy the new freedoms they have. This excitement lures them into experimentation with this newly found lifestyle of going out to various ‘night spots’, and restaurants.
These girls are often introduced to a businessman by a friend who needs an extra girl for a double date, for dinner. This may end up with a stay at one of the many small hotels around KL. Many girls find the experience of having sex with strangers after a dinner exciting. They are gratified by the tips usually given to them afterwards, and soon find out this is a very easy way of making money.
In this regard, many Malay girls don’t see themselves as prostitutes. Going out with strangers is a way of having fun and getting some extra money to buy the luxuries they want. They may undertake this activity spasmodically with a select group of men they get to know, or begin do this on a regular basis to make more money.
The girls very quickly build up a ‘social circle of men’ through recommendations given by satisfied clients. Much of Malay girls’ clientele is developed through this method.
Local Malay girls usually stick to Malay businessmen, hoping to get in with a rich and generous “Datuk” who can look after them. However many are also interested in expats. For some, this is an opportunity to experiment with sex before they get married and settle down.
Although the money is often seen just as a bonus, girls tend to seek generous types who look after them financially. They are selective. The young women can make up to RM500 (US$140) per encounter, and also get the opportunity to go away on weekends where they can earn up to RM1,500, plus the presents like iPhones they may be given.
(READ MORE: Prostitution: Thailand’s worst kept secret)
Some Chinese and Indian girls may follow the above pattern and have a couple of businessmen friends for the fun and extra money. Chinese girls like their own, preferring Chinese businessmen, particularly those girls who are Chinese educated.
Those who have the urge for more regular encounters use one or more of the many ‘dating’ sites like Tagged, Cupid, and Adult Friend Finder. Some even advertise in the classified pages of the local newspapers. The good thing about the Internet is that they can pick and choose who they want.
Taking on dates with businessmen on the side is usually enough to cover school fees and buy the luxurious things they want. There are actually very few work alternatives available, as wages in fast-food outlets or department stores are extremely low and require many hours work commitment, which would interfere with study. Prostitution is most often the best money making option to them.
Some work as guest relations officers (GROs) in the various karaoke bars or pubs around Kuala Lumpur, but this is very rare, and left more to foreign students. The karaoke bars are inhabited by the Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipinas, Thais, and some Cambodian and Lao girls. Indonesians tend to be found in one of the many Dangdut Clubs around town, catering for the Malay speaking customers. Some of these girls are just working to supplement their funds and pay their school fees, while others work full-time for as long as they can before returning home.
Some work out of escort agencies, while a few, who are not genuine students may end up in some of the massage parlors around Klang Valley. Many of these come to Malaysia to undertake short English courses end up in brothels.
Foreign students tend to rely more on others to organize their customers than locals, who operate much more on a freelance basis. Businesses matching foreign students with customers are now flourishing in Malaysia.
Another group of foreign students from African countries like Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, Botswana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, prefer to stand outside the popular night spots in KL. They can be seen around Jalan P Ramlee and KLCC area each night. They tend to target the expatriate population.
Many students in private colleges, particularly from the East Coast and East Malaysia struggle to pay fees, so need to work to pay for their studies. At the same time there is a heavy demand for student prostitutes around Klang Valley.
Student prostitution is not limited to Malaysia, its common in many other places, even in places like Budapest in Hungary. However its probably more rampant in Malaysia due to the limited choices of work opportunities available to students to pay for their education, and the limited number of student loans and scholarships available in Malaysia to poor and needy families.
What was a decade ago just a discreet practice of liaisons by local students with local businessmen has grown due to the influx of foreign students into a massive underground industry.