Update on sex work in Samoa
In a report in its May 5 issue, the Samoa Observer said Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has laughed at claims that poverty and hardship are to blame for the growing number of sex workers in Samoa. He has attacked the “newspaper” over its coverage of the issue describing the reporting as “rubbish.”
Tuilaepa was responding during his weekly media program on Wednesday.
Asked for a comment on the connection being made between hardship, poverty and sex work, the prime minister said, “If that is true then you shouldn’t find that in America, the wealthiest country in the world, yet there are a lot of women like that in America.”
He said, “That’s where it’s wrong; you can’t control this type of behavior.”
Samoa News was unable to find any stats on prostitution in American Samoa — from the Health Department or Public Safety.
Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson, when asked if any such stats were available from DPS, i.e. prostitution arrests or cases — he said no, but they are working on compiling such data for future use by the department.
In the meantime, Samoa News has contacted the HIV/ AIDS Core Group for stats, and will report in a later issue of their findings.
The Samoa Observer reported earlier this week that in 2016, the number of female sex workers in Samoa was estimated at around 400. The age during which some of them began sex work ranged from 13 to 21 years old.
This is according to the Multi-country Mapping and Behavioral study 2016, quoted by the Ministry of Health in their sixth annual report to UNAIDS.
A copy of the report was obtained by the Observer.
“The Pacific Multi-country Mapping and Behavioral Study 2016 found that there are an estimated 400 female sex workers in Samoa,” the report reads. “Most women are doing sex work for economic reasons."
“Payment varies considerably from $50 to $200 tala."
“These women have a wide range of clients, including local and foreign men and 58.3% had children and the majority had no other employment.”
The study was the work of the U.N.D.P, U.N.I.C.E.F and the University of New South Wales, which called for urgent need for reforms in Pacific island countries to adequately address HIV and sexually transmitted infections (S.T.Is) among vulnerable populations.
It examined the behavior risk factors and social and structural determinants of risk that drive the epidemic among vulnerable groups, such as men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and seafarers.
Samoa was among nine countries the Study covered.
According to the report, the number of partners some of the women have had in the last 12 months was 10. Nine were clients.
“None of the women had accessed a sexual health service in the last 12 months, although 60% had been given condoms in that period."
“None had been tested for HIV in the previous 12 months."