The Dark Side of Poverty: Students as Sex Workers


College education is quite expensive in the Philippines. Working and studying at the same time is not an easy task and it involves dedication and time management. There are students who work at a call centers, fast-food chains or work online to support their education, but there are those who have followed a different path altogether.

Student During the Day, Sex Worker by Night

Amarah, a nursing student, decided to take on a different occupation, which required less work hours and paid a lot more. Amarah is a student prostitute who studies by day and works as a sex worker at night.

“I’ve seen my classmates’ struggle in keeping up with our lessons, most of them would eventually drop out and I don’t want that to happen to me. My parents do not know about my sideline as a call girl. Of course, I wouldn’t let them. I know for a fact that they would be furious, especially my father, who is in San Carlos. There’s a huge possibility that they’d disown me and even ask me to leave for good if they’d find out that I’m an escort.”

One out of twenty-three students in Amarah’s school is engaged with an escort service. Most of them are discreet about their identity, but some are very open about their source of income. The majority of student prostitutes are in dire need of money and a small percentage just want to get their hands on the latest fashion or electronic trends. For Amarah, prostitution is the only way to finish college.

“Well, I do have regular customers and they usually hand me huge amounts. I can earn around $150-$200 per night, especially when they’d win their game in the Casino. I also have customers that would only want companionship, and they’d sometimes get me the latest gadgets, especially new cellphones.”

Amarah isn’t the only student prostitute who is struggling to make ends meet. According to Julius Bungcaras, the head of the International Justice Mission, Cebu’s Community Mobilization for churches and Students, 10 to 15 percent of every 1,000 students are engaged in prostitution.

The government has yet to resolve the issue concerning prostitution and the student escorts have yet to be rescued. So many have opted to sell their dignity and their body in exchange for a more comfortable life.

Prostitution in the Philippines   

As of 2013, more than 400,000 Filipinos are engaged in the sex industry, most of which are living below the poverty line. There are some who have been illegally transported to neighboring Asian countries, lured by the promise of a brighter future.

In the hopes of having prostitution controlled in the country, the Philippine government released a bid in decriminalizing prostitution. The bid was even backed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).  The bid was initiated in 2013 but was not accepted by the majority. National and international sectors strongly disagree with the idea of having sex trade legalized in the Philippines claiming that the consequences outweigh any advantages.

Amnesty International paved the way in terms of protecting the rights of sex workers. It may seem like a noble goal, but Manila Times explained that Amnesty International’s intention is to legalize sex trade and turn it into a business.

“Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face the constant risk of discrimination, violence, and abuse,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty in a statement. “Our global movement paved the way for adopting a policy for the protection of the human rights of sex workers which will help shape Amnesty International’s future work on this important issue.”

The majority of sex workers are forced into the trade. Some are pushed by poverty, but there are Filipinas who are being sold by gangs and threatened if they try to leave. Prostitution is still illegal in the Philippines, but authorities are lax when it comes to enforcing the laws.

The Duterte Administration on Sex Trade

The previous Philippine government was trying its best to abolish sex trade, but the current administration seems to take the issue lightly. President Duterte’s administration is reportedly lax when it comes to sex trade and sexual harassment, which makes sense given the president’s degrading remarks about women over the last year.

Earlier this year, the administration was called out by Harry L. Roque, stating that Duterte should not only focus on the drug war. Human trafficking is rampant in the Philippines because of the overwhelming poverty in almost all regions of the country.

“We have a law, but the problem is we’ve grown complacent. The law is fine, it’s the implementation. We have low conviction rate when it comes to human trafficking.”

Writers Note:

The sex trade in the Philippines is rampant. College students opt to sell their flesh with hope of earning enough money to pay for their education. The government has yet to provide options for people involved in the sex trade. It pains me to know that my brothers and sisters are often pushed to sell their dignity in exchange for their basic needs. I am keeping my hopes up that these people, especially college students, will someday be able to go to school without worrying about the fees.

Written by Abbie Uychiat

Abbie Uychiat studied BS Psychology and is an aspiring independent film director based in the Philippines. She is a dreamer and is juggling the joys of single motherhood, her career as a recruitment specialist and a freelance writer. Part of her mission is to provide a better and cleaner Philippines for the future generation.


  1. student escorts exist here too because education is way to expensive. A lot of girls are strippers and some are call girls. Sad. Guys flip burgers.

    • it’s really sad that most of them would result to selling their bodies instead of working hard for it. Its an easier route for them I guess. I do hope the gvt can do something about it. I’m afraid that they might contact HIV, and it can easily spread from one partner to another. yikes.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here