Risky business for Hong Kong sex workers after killings
THE killing of two young Indonesian women by British banker Rurik Jutting sent chills through Hong Kong’s sex worker community – but two years on, many say harsh economic realities leave them with no choice but to take the same risks.
Renowned as a safe city, Hong Kong was shocked to its core by the bloody murders of Sumarti Ningsih and Seneng Mujiasih, both in their 20s, who were found dead in Jutting’s flat on November 1, 2014.
He was found guilty of two charges of murder on November 8 and jailed for life.
The highly paid securities trader lived in a luxury apartment in the fashionable neighbourhood of Wanchai – but it was just streets away from a neon-lit red light district, lined with strip joints, dance clubs and expat pubs.
Mr Jutting picked up Ms Mujiasih in one of those bars. Ms Ningsih was also a regular on the strip.
Many Wanchai sex workers come from Indonesia and the Philippines – some, like Ms Mujiasih, have entered the city on domestic helper visas. Others fly in as tourists to make quick cash.
Prostitution in Hong Kong is legal but almost everything associated with it – such as soliciting sex or running a brothel – remains banned.
Inside Wanchai’s all-night discos the line between legal and illegal entertainment is blurred.
Revellers gyrate to thumping dance tracks, and groups of heavily made-up women in tight tops and short skirts eye newcomers.
On a busy Sunday night in a basement bar, one single mother said she spent her days as a domestic helper and her nights as a sex worker.
She remembered Ms Ningsih from seeing her in local clubs and was shaken by her death, but said she needed the extra work to support her daughter in the Philippines.
She said one night at a hotel with a client can mean HK$1500 (US$193) – a huge sum to women who earn the minimum monthly wage for domestic helpers of just HK$4310.
Ms Ningsih had come on a visitor visa and had met Mr Jutting online. She had a young son in Indonesia and was from a poor farming family.
After hearing of her death, her grieving parents told AFP they thought she had been working in a restaurant. She was sending $250 back to her family each month.
Violent crime against sex workers appears to be relatively low, with statistics showing there were just 20 reported cases in 2015, compared with 10 in 2014 and 27 in 2013.
But support groups say the figures are misleading as women like Ms Ningsih and Ms Mujiasih are unlikely to go to police if they are attacked. –
The scene outside a bar in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong.